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Hello, here are a few basic points to be made for the traveller thinking of heading to Afghanistan, I’ll keep writing up notes so will have more soon.
This gentleman here cut me a set of shalwar kameez in Kabul. I’d grown up wearing similar as a Pakistani boy heading to the mosque in the UK. If you visit Afghanistan it can be tempting to wear walking trousers and outdoor gear. It’s well worth remembering real people live here and manage to dress themselves all year round without looking like they’re going camping. The clothes they wear are suited to the environment and culture, it’s well worth buying a set or two. Afghans do follow some western fashions and you can buy branded clothing. Not all wear traditional dress. But a shalwar kameez in the summer works well, and in the winter add a thick chador (shawl) to wrap around yourself. You’ll see Afghans using these lots in the winter. Near the tailors you’ll find shops selling cloth, I bought some for $15 and then having it cut and made up cost around $5-10. Not much for a set of clothes. Adding a hat to stay warm is again sensible and you’ll see the population doing this.
Write a will
It is dangerous, take that seriously. I always have a scheduled email for the 27th which I push forward each month. If I should die while away the email is automatically sent to a friend who receives instructions on where to find details on how he should handle my affairs so to not burden my family, he’s paid for this service. Set an email, leading to a safe location in your home country with detailed instructions on obtaining death certificates and passwords to close your social media accounts, transfer your bank accounts to family and so on. Do you have insurance from your employer? If you’re a freelancer look for insurance. There’s not much they can do but they may be able to pay for the funeral. Either way, make sure you have the administration of death sorted. It’s rude, in my opinion, to leave a grieving family with it.
I’ve tried three different SIM cards landing on one that was mostly reliable. This was Afghan Wireless (AWCC). You will see Afghans carry two or three mobile phones using sims from different networks so they don’t lose reception. I also bought cheap phones for around $20 in which to keep an alternative network’s sim and this meant I could keep ion touch in most places. The drive between Kabul and Bamyan and the one from Hairatan to Mazar-e-Sharif proved to be communication black spots. This will happen.
It is disappointing that after twenty years of western engagement in Afghanistan there still are not great Pashto and Dari phrasebooks to buy in say London. Pimsleur offer audio courses in both. These can be bought cheap using an Audible subscription. Learn how to say the basics in both languages, yes you may have an Afghan friend translating but even a simple phrase such as “Zama Garana Wo Rorah Manana”, which means “My dear brother, thank you” in Pashto goes a long way with the Taliban.
Be respectful of women, don’t approach them unless invited to do so. There may well incidences such as professional environments where you say meet a female doctor who engages you in conversation. Fine. But on the whole it is not a good idea to chat to women in the street. Interviewing someone through a local producer is fine. In some settings such as cowering cafes you may naturally get into a conversation with women and that seems to be fine too.
You can buy all manner of medical kit for hostile environments but the majority of health issues you will deal with are headaches, cuts and definitely diarrhoea. Make sure you pack for the basics. Carrying loo roll when visiting remote places may make all the difference. Carry oral rehydration sachets to replace salts, paracetamol for the cramps and antibiotics (Azithromycin) if symptoms don’t clear up. Note, do not use Ciprofloxacin, it has been phased out due to resistance built against it. It will be cycled back in in years. Please follow latest medical advice and use Azithromycin. Nobody cares that you still have your Iraq Cipro.
Hope this has helped, more soon.
From the last post
Eating beans and bread in Kabul I heard an explosion, then saw a report of a second. Journalists race to incidents like this because they want the story. These days they’re better at thinking how they can tell that story without becoming victims themselves. The Taliban have good security procedures and stop people entering areas in case there are secondary explosions. This may frustrate some but this is where we can ask, what is needed to tell the story? Do I need to be there? Right now? Can I do it from another location? Some media organisations also have good training and wait.
Read Muslims killing Muslims here
Please share this blog
Hello, please share this blog with friends who may be interested, it helps hugely, I’d like to keep writing and taking pictures. It won’t all be Afghanistan, we’re going to lift off soon. All the best. And thank you for reading.