Monday, 19 September 2011

The Alphabetical Tourist: Afghanistan

The beginning forays on my virtual Round the World adventure aren't yielding any renowned tourist hotspots yet.  Today we arrive in a place that is always in the news, but for all the wrong reasons.   Visiting war torn Afghanistan is considered so risky to life and limb that the Foreign Office advise against all travel to a lot of the country.  For the areas where essential travel is deemed viable, they suggest employing professional security staff to accompany you at all times.  Yikes!  Yet even as recently as August this year, the BBC have reported on the Afghan government's attempts to promote tourism in their first ever National Park, the stunning lakes and mountains region of Band-e-Amir, where skiing is a goer in winter.   This peaceful idyll is only spoilt periodically by the blasts from hand grenades thrown in the waters, an interesting technique used by local fishermen to catch their prey.

Before the Taliban hunkered in, Afghanistan was indeed on the traveller's map, described as a land of unsurpassed beauty, amazing landscapes  and a host of architectural relics including the now decimated Baniyan Buddhas. 1970s hippies must have been loathe to leave.  But until I researched this post I knew nothing much about  its cultural attractions.  I had read The Kite Runner though so I had a reasonable grounding in the county's national sport.

What I've have learnt though is a handy hint, useful if you want to play a different sport, polo, but haven't got anything to hit .  Simply take a dead goat, or preferably a calf.  Behead and disembowel it and cut off the legs at the knee joints.  Then soak in water for 24 hours to toughen the carcass and pack with sand for extra weight. Et voila! A perfectly good ball substitute that would probably have blood lustful Hooray Henries on the field at Ascot whooping with delight.  Alternatively, it's just the thing needed for Buzkashi, another Afghan national sport!

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