I’ve been managing this travel blog for some four years and never had either a partner nor a contributor. Until now. I’m very excited, in fact, to be introducing Hamed, an Afghan young man working in the security industry and with the passion for travel as the new contributor to the blog who will share his precious insights about his own country, that I’m dying to visit.
The very heart of Asia, rich in culture, with a glorious past and stunning natural scenery, Afghanistan is a beautiful place.
With this I am by no means suggesting you take it as your next overseas adventure travel destination, it’s still a war zone and you cannot just stroll around with your camera breezy and carefree like you would do in any other country. For obvious security reasons Afghanistan tourism is next to non-existent, and this is why Hamed’s willingness to write about his country and life there is all the more valuable and appreciated.
Unfortunately, holding an Afghan passport doesn’t make it easy for him to pursue his dream, and for now, in the wait to start traveling (and visit Italy!), he agreed to share his knowledge, words and images from his town and province with Chasing The Unexpected‘s readers.
Angela: Dear Hamed, thank you very much first of all for agreeing to contribute and for giving me this interview. Can you please introduce yourself?
Hamed: My name is Sayed Hamed Hosseiny, and I was born in Mashhad, Iran‘s holiest city. During the civil war in Afghanistan, my parents sought refuge in Iran prior to my birth. They were able to return to Afghanistan when I was 6 years old, so I attended the first years of school in Iran. I now live in Herat Province, southwestern Afghanistan. I have held many jobs with several companies but in the last few years I have been working in the private security industry. I’m a very big fan of traveling and I love animals, especially men’s best friends, dogs.
A.: How hard is for Afghans to get a foreign visa?
H.: Well, it depends. Currently Indian and Pakistan visas are the easiest to get as it takes few days, while getting an Iranian visa takes something around 10 weeks but it can change if you are willing to give few hundred dollars bribe. Getting visa for Europe is impossible unless you are willing to spend from 22.000 to 25000 USD. Basically the only country an Afghan can go to and get a visa for in few days without having to pay a bribe is India.
A.: You have been working in security and dealing with heavy weapons from your early 20s, can you tell us what it is like for you and your family and friends to live in Afghanistan in such difficult times? How do Afghans live the war?
H.: It’s very difficult to live the life of an Afghan since we have been at war for decades. Life gets really boring and hard when you are scared of the next suicide bombers to blow up somewhere or you can’t travel and visit the beautiful places out of town you used to visit before. Now you can only do the same thing every day (go to work and come back home) because of security reasons and only hope for better times. People have never been so hopeless here, and that is why they flee to go to Europe, more often than not, risking their lives.
A.: What would you say to someone who wants to travel to Afghanistan?
H.: It’s a tricky question. Well, I would say if you are a tourist and would like to see Afghanistan, make sure you coordinate your trip with some local who has a good knowledge of the area before you come and, please, once here do not start wandering the town by yourself looking to buy stuff, do not even think of getting out of your hotel alone. Just because Afghans are quite safe in the big cities, it doesn’t mean you will be safe to walk around by yourself. We’re still at war and it has been getting worse ever since the international troops ended their combat roll and started to pull out of here and the economy dropped.
I used to see tourists in Afghanistan some ten years ago but not anymore because of security reasons. The very few foreigners that I might barely see are the ones who work for NGOs and they always have local security with them if they decide to walk in the town and go shopping. Again, this is still a war zone, there is always the danger for foreigners of getting kidnapped or shot.
A.: What are your dreams for the future?
H.: To make it short I have to say PEACE is what I hope and dream of, just like all Afghans who are tired of war. Someday I would love to be able to travel the world, see other countries and experience other cultures.