Edin Krnic from Montenegro is a real world traveler, and he is famous all over the Balkans, and wider, for his travels. All of his adventures are documented with wonderful photos from distant areas of our planet, and he says that he likes to explore new countries and areas, to meet other people and their cultures. His goal is to travel all over the planer, and he is slowly, but certainly, accomplishing.
Only for Telegraf.rs, he spoke about his latest travel, during which he traveled and got to know Afghanistan. We hear all kinds of prejudice about this country and it is often spoken about in the world media about some bad things. But, he has wonderful memories and impressions.
Besides the sights he had the opportunity to visit, he especially stressed that the people left the greatest impression on him, their kindness and hospitality they show towards everybody, despite the poverty and difficult life, as if you are the part of their family.
- Since I set myself a goal to visit all 196 countries in the world, and Afghanistan is one of them, besides all of the dangers due to the state of emergency which is still in power in that country in Asia, which I was warned about as well when I was getting my visa in New Delhi, I had a firm decision to visit Afghanistan.
That is how this decision was made. And I never regretted it. Afghanistan was on my Silk Road and it was natural not to avoid this ancient country which was once a part of the Persian empire - said Edin.
However, he states that the tour of Afghanistan is difficult for tourists because the government doesn't recommend visiting the country due to safety reasons.
- In particular, I received a visa for Afghanistan with the guarantee from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Montenegro. The Consul Fazal Haq Faqiry in New Delhi, which I must mention here for exceptional correctness, asked for such a guarantee because he did not want to issue a visa on his own because he felt responsible if something happened to me while visiting Afghanistan. It was he who recommended me to visit the north of Afghanistan, which is a little safer than the south which is held by the Taliban and which has constant fights with the Afghanistan army and coalition forces.
Fazal advised me to visit only five cities: Kabul, Bamyan, Mazar Sharif, Herat, and Balkh. As I entered Silk Road to Afghanistan from the Uzbek city of Termez, Mazar Sharif was the first major city I visited in Afghanistan. Prior to that, by performing all the formalities for crossing the border, I moved towards Heiratan on foot, a border village on the road to Mazar Sharif.
I have accidentally met the incredible family Amany, which created a very positive picture of the people of Afghanistan on the very first day. The twin brothers Kamio and Namio Amani are college-educated boys who speak English fluently and who gave me first-hand information about the security situation, as well as about where I can go around Afghanistan without troubles, but also that I have to be very careful not to move when the night falls down - he adds.
I have visited many sights in this country, but I like the complex of religious objects with the famous Blue Mosque in the Mazar Sharif the most.
- It was constructed in a typical Persian style and it is identical with religious objects in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. It is interesting that most religious buildings were built before the arrival of Islam, but then these facilities were adapted to Islamic teachings, which makes them extremely old, but so much more interesting.
I have visited the famous mosque in Herat, Great Mosque of Herat or Jami Masjid of Herat, and then in the city of Balkh I have visited the house of the famous Persian poet and philosopher Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi, a gorgeous place which was a great city during the old Persia, until the Mongol army led by Genghis Khan in the quest for Europe completely destroyed it to the ground. Balkh is today just a city in the shadow of Mazar Sharif, while it was the other way around in the 12th century.
I couldn't visit anything in Kabul because the movement was difficult due to the large numbers of police and army posts. That is why I couldn't visit the famous Bamyan and Great Buddha because the Taliban took over the city one month before my arrival - he said.
The people left the greatest impression on Eding, and he especially mentions the family Amany which welcomed him like he was a part of the family in their humble home and they shared food with him.
- The standard in Afghanistan is very poor, but the people are very hearty and good. They will welcome you in their home and they will share everything they have. I had a similar situation in Herat where I stayed for several days as a guest with Mohammad Yasera with whom I spent several days and who introduced me with his closest family and friends.
- They are very traditional people, and while I stayed in their homes, I didn't have the opportunity to meet their sisters or mothers, due to their religious beliefs.
Regarding their way of life, I have noticed that most of them are in trade business, agriculture, or crafting. I don't know how the world sees them, but I can say that during the 14 days I stayed in Afghanistan, I have seen that they are really good, friendly and hospitable, so I felt like I was with my own family in their homes.
Whenever I parted with someone where I stayed, they would give a lot of information about safety on my road to the net destination, and I always stuck with that information, because I knew that the locals can give me the best and most precise info - said our interlocutor.
Besides the good people who want to help everybody, Edin describes their customs, culture, and religion.
- I must say that as a member of the Islamic religion, their customs were very familiar and close since they are almost identical to the customs of local Muslims in the Balkans, which is mostly reflected in the identical use of the words which arrived in Europe while spreading Islam its original Persian form. Some of them are known to members of other religions because they are considered Turkisms and Arabism in our language.
There are the words, let's say: šeker (suggar), sofra (table), soat (watch), nana (mint), dugme (button), kufte (meatballs), sabah (dawn), čorap (socks), sanduk (coffin), k'šok (spoon), etc. Also, we should take into consideration that Afghanistan is not a secular state, which means that the state and religion aren't separated from one another. I could feel that the most during my stay in Afghanistan because I was there during the holy month of Ramadan and it is noticeable that all of the people fast, it is not regulated by law but it is something that is implied. Also, during the day, all of the hospitality objects are closed before iftar (the meal which ends the daily fast) - adds this world traveler.
According to the story of our interlocutor, the food in this country is similar to ours. They drink tea, lemonade with mint, and you could talk for days about the taste of their bread.
- Their food is quite similar to our typical Balkan dishes, like rolled cabbage, meat from a grill, like kebabs, sataras with vegetables, then cheese, milk and other dairies which are prepared in an almost identical way, they taste the same, unlike the states like Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, etc, where milk, cheese, and dairies are completely different from the same products in Afghanistan and Balkans. It is interesting that they drink coffee very rarely, and the tea is much more common and is drank on any occasion.
In addition to the food, besides tea, the lemonade with mint is mandatory, which is extremely pleasant and refreshing or chakka, which is made from yogurt diluted with water, mostly according to your own taste, with the addition of salt and mint. Their bread is particularly tasty, it is called nan, and it is prepared in a traditional way, in earth stoves. That is particularly thin bread which is something between loaf and tortillas.
About their bakeries and making of nan, it is interesting that you can always find it fresh in any part of the day or night, except during Ramadan, when it is prepared one hour before iftar - said Edin.
Edin speaks with great respect and gratitude about the people he had the opportunity to meet.
- When leaving Afghanistan, just several hundred meters from the border with Uzbekistan where I entered Afghanistan, in the bordering place named Hairatan, I have met two remarkable lads, twin brothers Kamio and Namio Amani, where I had an unplanned stay and I refreshed before my journey to Mazar Sharif.
Since I had no information before the journey about the safety information in Afghanistan, I received first-hand information from them where I can travel safely, and what places are extremely dangerous. They were of great help during the rest of the travel since I communicated with them over social networks.
That way, I received information on what roads are passable. I met Yaser Mohammad in the city of Herat, also a very educated young man who was my right hand during my tour of Herat.
He has shown me all the cultural-historical sights in Herat, taking in consideration that Herat was a man strategic point on the Silk Road from China towards the Mediterranean.
I also stayed with Yeser as a guest in his home. We spent several iftars in local restaurants, where I met new people, his friends, and relatives - he said.
The position of women in Afghanistan is often discussed in a negative way. Edin saw, with his own two eyes, an entirely different story and a way of life. He even had the opportunity to talk to two women and to take pictures with them.
- We perceive the Islamic world from our European perspective and that is entirely normal. However, I brought two pictures of Afghanistan from this trip, which are completely opposite. It is a general picture that their wives, in accordance with sharia rules, must be covered with Chador which covers the face and the eyes.
I had the opportunity to see a man driving a few women on a motorbike with a trailer. I couldn't know if they are his sisters, or perhaps wives, because they were all covered, and on the other side, polygamy is common in Afghanistan, so that is one picture of Afghanistan.
The other one, which is completely the opposite of the first one, which I could see in the city Herat when I left the plane upon landing from Kabul.
This is where I met two girls, Fatma and Sumeia, who were very fashionably dressed and they had a hijab on their heads, so their faces were completely revealed. They were very communicative and we even took a few photos together. So, that is another picture of Affghanistan which confirmed to me that there is not only sharia law in that country, but also that there are certain freedoms when women are concerned, which means that everything is individual.
My general impression is that women from the province and from the outskirts of the city, wear a chador or are completely covered. In their institutions, however, women only cover their heads with hijab and they are very well dressed. Besides, in their shopping malls, boutiques are full of modern clothes, and there must be someone buying those clothes, otherwise, they wouldn't be displayed there - he adds.
The greatest problem in Afghanistan is security, this country often has a bad reputation in the world media. Edin himself states that he didn't feel safe while he was traveling.
- When you see the conditions in Afghanistan with your own eyes, you can't say that it feels safe. That is a country which has been in war for more than 30 years, and no matter how good the people are, it is unsafe to move on the streets after the first dark due to an unpleasant encounter with the Taliban.
And did I find myself in some scary situation, I can say that I did and I felt fear because I was accidentally in that "safe" Mazar Sharif and I witnesses a bombing attack of the Taliban where one member of the police lost his life, I have seen his headless body and spilled brains, I was in disbelief and shock, and everything occurred just 300 meters away from me - he states.
This event happened on April 30 and it left the strongest impression on him, considering that it happened near him. He said that the sight was unbelievable.
- What is even more strange is that just three minutes before the explosion, I was walking there because I left the Blue Mosque which I visited. What I found especially surprising is that people acted naturally in the moment of explosion, not showing panic or wondering, probably because they got used to the sights like that.
I was in shock, but at the same time, I wanted to come closer to make some photos of the attack. But, one passerby prevented me, he strongly grabbed my hand and in fluent English told me to stay put, because, after the first smaller attack, there is usually bigger and stronger explosion, while the first explosion serves only as a bait in order to attract the masses and to kill many civilians - said Edin.
He adds that many roads in Afghanistan are blocked from the Taliban and that movement on roads is very dangerous, so the safest means of travel is traveling by airplane.
- There are two airlines in Afghanistan, Kam and Ariana. All major cities are connected with airports, except those cities which are in the Taliban hands. It is very interesting that the prices of plane tickets are extremely expensive, the price of a one-way ticket goes between 80-150 dollars, depending on the destination - he said.
He adds that, besides everything, this travel fulfilled all of his expectations.
- Prior to everything, we should never forget that Afghanistan is a country which has been in war for more than 3 decades. Besides all of that, the poverty and hard life, you can feel the Persian spirit and the kindness of people who approach you and they share everything with you as if you are the member of their family. In addition, I had the opportunity to visit the remains of the Persian civilization, that was something priceless for me.
I was surprised that their wives, who all wear chador which completely covers all parts of their bodies, visit modern shopping malls and wear western clothes underneath it. However, due to the strong grasp of the tradition, their parents probably don't allow them to walk on the streets dressed like that. That can be particularly seen with girls because the marriages are still made in a very traditional way, through the proposal performed by the parents of the bride and groom - said our interlocutor.
I would return again to this country, but as he said, only for the people and their remarkable kindness and selflessness, and due to all the poverty they live in. He adds that it is something priceless for him. He brought a great lesson in life from this journey.
- The greatest lesson in life which I carry from this travel is a realization that human life isn't worth a dime. I have experienced that I could die in Mazar Sharif from a random explosion. There would probably be no information as to what has happened to me, but here, I still am alive, the life prepares new journeys and new areas, probably because my mission on this Earth is still not over.
On the other hand, one lifeless body of a soldier was lying on the ground, with shredded head, in the same place where I was walking three minutes before the explosion. That is the uncertainty of life. A man is not safe wherever he is, that is why we should live life to the fullest, which I personally try to do - concludes Edin.
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(Telegraf.co.uk / A. Taskovic - firstname.lastname@example.org)