AFGHANISTAN: TRIBES & CULTURE 16-27 SEPT, 2022

AFGHANISTAN: TRIBES & CULTURE
16-27 SEPT, 2022

with Jeremy Woodhouse
(13 days – 12 nights), maximum group size 6

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Sakhi Shrine, Kabul

This itinerary is designed to visit safe and interesting areas in this incredible country. The trip combines historical sites, architecture, urban and rural life, nature and ethnography. We will move with 4x4 vehicles and with domestic flights for longer distances. 


Itinerary

Day 1: ARRIVAL IN KABUL
Arrival in Kabul and meet your guide. The city tour starts this afternoon in Kabul, the Afghan capital. Since the recent war, and the fall of the Taliban, there has been substantial investment and a lot of changes in this legendary city, and although modern developments can be seen all around, many of the old interesting areas still remain. After an introductory meeting that will include a specific security briefing, we will head out for our first night’s dinner.

O/N Park Star Hotel or similar. BB

Day 2: KABUL
During our first full day in country, we plan to explore some of the sights of this hectic city. The traffic may be horrendous and the detrimental effects of the last 30 years can be clearly seen in many areas, but there are still some absolute gems to enjoy in this fabled city that was so loved by the Moghul Emperor Babur. We start with a visit to the Kabul Museum and the nearby Darulaman Palace. Though both have been damaged badly, they nevertheless provide a fascinating glimpse into the riches and splendor that Kabul once embraced. For lunch we will head for the beautifully restored Babur Gardens which were laid out in the early 16th century and today are considered a haven of tranquility for Kabul residents. Later we will take a stroll through the Ka Faroshi Bird Market where time seems to have stood still for hundreds of years.

O/N Park Star Hotel or similar. BB

Day 3: KABUL | HERAT 
This morning we plan to take an early morning flight to the previous capital of Herat. Our exact itinerary will depend on flight times but we plan first to explore Herat’s fascinating Old City. The Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) have done some amazing work in maintaining and restoring much of the city’s ancient glory and beyond the main streets we’ll find beautifully decorated caravanserais and craftsmen of all kinds. Later we’ll head out to the Musalla Complex that includes the Minarets of Gohar Shad and her Mausoleum. Gohar Shad was the wife of Shah Rukh, son of Tamerlane. Destroyed for defensive reasons at the height of the Great Game era by the British in anticipation of a Russian invasion (that failed to materialize!) these minarets tower above the surrounding plains and give a sense of the grandeur of the complex that once stood here. It is a haunting place to wander through in the late afternoon sun.

Overnight Nazary Hotel. BB
Nazary International Hotel is located in one of the best places of the city. Combining the traditional and modern architecture, pleasant and exhilarating spaces in 5 floors, up. The Nazary hotel is the first 4 star hotel in the Herat city of Afghanistan.

Day 4: HERAT
Our first visit this morning will be to the magnificent Friday Mosque. This is one of the finest examples of Ghorid and Timurid tiling and is arguably one of the most stunning mosques in the world, though the inhabitants of Mazar-e Sharif and Samarkand might disagree! There is an opportunity to see a famous 14th Century bronze cauldron, alleged to be Tamerlane’s sherbet bowl, in the courtyard. We will also be able to see the tile factory, which claims to be the oldest in the world and probably dates back to the 12th century, where tiles are still made in the traditional manner. We will then head to the Citadel, recently restored and dating in parts back to Alexander the Great. With the rest of the day there’ll be time to visit the peaceful shrine of Gazar Gah and perhaps go shopping for Herat’s famous blue glassware or even a famed carpet. For most Afghans, carpets are a major purchase; equivalent to a westerner buying a car and the negotiation may take a number of visits.

O/N Nazary Hotel. BB

Day 5: HERAT | KABUL | MAZAR E SHARIF 
Breakfast and transfer to the airport. Flight to Mazar-e Sharif via Kabul. The name means ‘Tomb of the Exalted’ and is believed to be the burial place of the prophet’s son-in-law Ali. The tomb is in a magnificent tiled building surrounded by flocks of white doves. If a grey one joins them, it is said, it will become white in a month. Mazar is not only a center of carpet production in Afghanistan but also one of the centers of the Central Asian carpet trade, and the most beautiful carpets from all over Central Asia can be found in the bazaars. It is a relaxed and friendly city and the park which surrounds the shrine is a good place to meet locals. This afternoon we’ll visit the Shrine of Ali at Rawze-e Sharif, an incredibly important place where many Shias try to make a pilgrimage here at least once in their lives.

O/N Sameer Waleed Hotel. BB

Day 6: SAMANGAN | TASHKURGAN (2h)
Breakfast. A couple of hours south of Mazar lies one of Afghanistan’s most unexpected and rewarding sights—the 28m high Buddhist stupa of Takht-e Rostam. Carved out of the rock, in similar fashion to the churches of Lalibela in Ethiopia, this complex sits high above the valley and is today one of the country’s most enduring legacies from the pre-Islamic era. After a picnic lunch here we will return to the town of Tashkurgan, which lies in a key strategic location just north of a dramatic gorge on the northern fringes of the Hindu Kush foothills. Once a major crossroads; the town is now most famous for the 19th century palace that overlooks it. Later we will return to Mazar.

O/N Sameer Waleed Hotel. BB
At Sameer Waleed Guesthouse, your pleasure is our priority. Delightful décor, friendly service, abundant amenities, and convenient locations meld to make a preferable hospitality experience at over Mazar-e-Sharif City. When you stay at our Guesthouse, you’ll find less stress, more rest and even more inspiration with our innovative approach to lodging. Characteristic amenities include a free continental breakfast, a Kids Stay Free program, free wireless Internet access at most locations, 25” televisions, and special rates for seniors over fifty.

Day 7: MAZAR E SHARIF | KABUL 
Breakfast and fly from Mazar e Sharif to Kabul if time permit a visit to a poplar neighborhood where will experience Afghanistan’s national sport; Buzkashi.

O/N Park Star Hotel or similar. BB

Day 8: KABUL | PANJSHIR VALLEY | KABUL (4h)
Early breakfast and drive to Panjshir Valley. We will spend the day exploring this incredible valley. The river has a narrow and extremely fertile flood plain and is famous for its fruit. However, the sides are steep mountains hence its excellent defense qualities. In the spring especially, watered by the melting snow, these mountainsides are dark green giving an impression of overwhelming fertility. The valley was conveniently accessed from Pakistan by journalists covering the Russian and Taliban wars when its geographical situation, and the brilliance of its mujahedeen commander, made it unconquerable. Massoud defeated the Russians here 15 times, and so comprehensively that they stopped trying to capture it. Most of the television footage of the war shown in the West was shot here. Murdered by Al-Qaeda operatives two days before 9/11, Massoud is revered today as a national hero and we will visit his tomb, set in a commanding position above the valley. We will head back to Kabul in the late afternoon for dinner.

O/N Park Star Hotel or similar. BB

Day 9: KABUL | BAMIYAN (4h)
Breakfast and early drive to Bamiyan. Undoubtedly one of the country’s highlights, the Bamiyan Valley was once on a major trading route and was an important center for Buddhism. Although the Taliban famously destroyed the giant Buddhas in 2001, there is still much to see in the area, not least the Buddha niches, which are still an awesome sight to behold. We also plan to explore the surrounding cliffs that are riddled with caves that contain carvings and frescos. There will be time to wander through the friendly bazaar in the center of town and to meet local Hazaras (local ethnic group) working their fields. Later in the afternoon, we will head for the nearby Darya Ajdhahar, the so called Valley of the Dragon. Here there is a massive rock formation which is alleged to be the remains of a dragon that persecuted the villagers until Hazrat Ali, cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet Mohammed, killed it. The story is reminiscent of St George and the Dragon and is a wonderful spot to take in the late afternoon sun.

O/N Noorband Qala Hotel. BB
A first class hotel in Bamiyan

Day 10: BAMIYAN | BAND E MIR (2h)
Breakfast. A two-hour journey west takes us to the extraordinary chain of lakes at Band-e Amir. Set in the middle of a barren mountain landscape, the lakes are astonishingly beautiful with the water color varying from turquoise to deep blue-black from lake to lake. For those who are feeling active, there is the opportunity to do a good walk around the cliff edge; for those after a more relaxed day, it is simply a great spot to take in this natural wonder, which in any other country would be teeming with visitors. We will return to Bamiyan for our penultimate night there.

O/N Noorband Qala hotel BB

Day 11: BAMIYAN
Breakfast. Our final day in Bamiyan allows for a more ethnographic visit to small Hazara villages and to two lesser known but equally impressive sites. First we drive the short distance to the base of Shar-e Zohak. This imposing fortress at the eastern entrance to the Bamiyan Valley has been used by various commanders over the past two millennia and although largely destroyed by Genghis Khan’s forces, it is still a great place to explore on foot. In particular, the summit gives a truly spectacular 360º view over the surrounding area. Later we will head for the Shahr-e Gholgola, another fortress that saw its glory destroyed in the face of the Mongol invasion of the 13th century. Today its ruined remains overlook the central Bamiyan valley and provide superb views over the Buddha niches and the surrounding countryside.

O/N Noorband Qala hotel. BB

Day 12: BAMIYAN | KABUL (4h)
Breakfast and drive to Kabul. Stops on the way. Arrival and transfer to the hotel. Last visits around the old quarter. Farewell dinner in a traditional restaurant.

O/N Park Star Hotel or similar. HB (dinner)

Day 13: KABUL – FLIGHT HOME
Breakfast. At the appointed time, transfer to the airport. Flight back home. BB

END OF THE TOUR

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View over the Bamyan (Bamiyan) Valley Showing the large Buddha Niche in the Cliff


Trip Notes

  • Visits and excursions order may be modified according with local conditions (road conditions, security issues, etc.)
  • In many places armed police or military will escort our vehicle
  • Trip expenses: traveler must change into local coin about 400 USD approx. For drinks, not included meals and shopping. To buy craftwork we recommend bringing some extra money. The guide will help you change money in the same hotel
  • Electricity and how to charge cameras: There are sockets in the hotels
  • Internet: each person has to buy a telephone card with Internet service and get connect through its personal mobile
  • We recommend to bring a shower towel and flip flops for the bathroom
  • Services codes: breakfast + accommodation (BB), half bard (HB), full board (FB)

Arrival & Departure 

Airlines
Emirates airlines flies non-stop to Kabul from Dubai

Arrival & Meeting Place
Arrive 16 Sept, 2021 at Hamid Karzai International Airport, located 5 kilometers (3.1 mi) from the city center of Kabul, where you will be met by your guide.

Departure
27 Sept, 2021 from Hamid Karzai International Airport.

Visa

Weather 
Daily high temperatures decrease by 9°F, from 88°F to 80°F, rarely falling below 73°F or exceeding 93°F. Daily low temperatures decrease by 9°F, from 61°F to 52°F, rarely falling below 46°F or exceeding 66°F.

Language
The Persian or Dari language functions as the nation's lingua franca and is the native tongue of several of Afghanistan's ethnic groups including the Tajiks, Hazaras and Aimaqs. Pashto is the native tongue of the Pashtuns, the dominant ethnic group in Afghanistan. Due to Afghanistan's multi-ethnic character, multilingualism is a common phenomenon.

Currency
The afghani is the currency of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, which is issued by the nation's central bank called Da Afghanistan Bank. It is nominally subdivided into 100 puls, although there are no pul coins currently in circulation.

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The Great Mosque of Herat (Friday Mosque or Jama Masjid)

1 SPOT OPEN

Tour Cost: $6,200
EARLY INTEREST DEPOSIT: $100
(NON-REFUNDABLE)

Single: $550

Maximum Group Size: 6


Tour Price Includes

  • all transfers
  • domestic flights
  • hotels and guesthouses
  • English speaking professional fixer-guide during the entire trip
  • Food as mentioned in the itinerary 
  • land transport in 4x4 vehicles
  • fuel and tolls
  • mentioned excursions
  • tickets to the places mentioned in the itinerary

Tour Price Excludes

  • international flights and air taxes
  • food and drinks not mentioned in the itinerary 
  • Visa 
  • travel and cancellation insurance

Paying by check

If you would like to pay your deposit and/or balance with a check, please make the check payable to: Pixelchrome, Inc and mail it to:

Nicole Woodhouse
Pixelchrome, Inc, 
605 Rouen Drive, 
McKinney TX 75072

Paying by Wire Transfer

If you would like to pay by Wire Transfer please contact nicole@pixelchrome.com for bank account details.


Equipment Checklist

  • Bring you own laptop computer and storage media
  • Camera body(s)
  • Lenses, 16-35mm, 24-70mm zoom and 70-200mm zoom or similar lenses are very good
  • Light bag for easy hiking with camera bodies and accessories
  • Cleaning kit for cameras and lenses
  • Rain/dust covers for cameras and lenses
  • Charger for batteries
  • Spare batteries
  • Spare Memory cards
  • Memory card reader
  • USB key to exchange images

Also good to have

  • Tripod
  • Good quality polarizing filter