KABUL (Pajhwok): A Canadian tourist, Francois Xavier Paradis Garneau, who visited 18 provinces of Afghanistan alone, says Afghanistan is a safe country now for foreign tourists.
Afghanistan witnessed over four decades of war and conflict which ended after the collapse of the republic government on August 15 last year. Afghanistan’s current government has not yet received international recognition.
After recent political changes, Canadian tourist Francois decided to travel to Afghanistan and so far he has visited 18 provinces of the war-torn country.
Pajhwok reporter traveled with Francois to five tourist sites in capital Kabul and asked him to share his views and thoughts about the culture of Afghans and to what extent Afghanistan was now suitable for tourism.
Pajhwok reporter and Canadian tourist visited Qarghai tourist site on the outskirts of capital Kabul.
At Qarghai, the snow has started melting and the ground was wet but Francois seemed happy and pointed out to the Qarghai lake and said: “It is the first time I see this kind of spectacular view.”
He said: “From Consulate General in Peshawar I got visa and entered Afghanistan via Torkham and during months I visited 18 provinces — Kabul, Bamyan, Balkh, Faryab, Badghis, Herat, Farah, Nimroz, Helmand, Paktia and Kandahar.
“I came from Torkham border by land and I went to Kabul and then from Kabul to Bamiyan and then Panjshir then up to Mazar -e- Shareef, Faryab, Badghis, Herat, Ghor, Farah, Kandahar and then Kabul I had one-month visa but I want to stay and visit more. I got the second visa in Kabul then I back down to visit Nemroz, Helmand, Paktia and now I am here in Kabul.”
Afghanistan’s hospitality is commendable
Francois said wide deserts of Nimroz, snow packed mountains of Bamyan and attracting views of other places will never be forgotten.
“My favorite place is Nimroz, I never expected I would be able to go there, it has sandy desert, historic forts in deserts.”
“Every region is different, the landscape is different, people speak different languages like Balochi, Pashto, Tajiki, Aymaq, Hazara, Ozbeki.
He said every time when he was in the bus in Kandahar, Mazar, Herat and Nemroz, passengers next to him would ask him “do you have a place where you are going because if you don’t, I would like to invite to my guestroom in my home every single time they will ask me please come to my home if you don’t have a place to stay you will be my guest and frankly this hospitality is amazing to me”.
“I am from Canada but we don’t have such hospitality so that was quite impressive.”
He said he learned about the wedding culture of Pashton people in Kandahar, witnessed Buzkashi game in Mazar-e-Sharif which were fantastic. When he was in Nimroz he tasted Balochi food, camel milk in desert were delicious.
He also learned few Pashto and Dari sentences during his journey. He learned how to pronounce ‘How are you’ in Pashto the words ‘Thank you and bathroom’ in Dari.
“I think Afghanistan has a lot of potential for tourism, historical monuments here who go back hundreds of years, the famous is Jam Minaret in Ghor province, it is 800 year old and it is beautiful piece of architecture, I think also of Qala-e-Bust in Helmand, BalaHisar here in Kabul and also in Herat there is BalaHisar, some interesting museum in Herat. Afghanistan has a lot of potential and I think eventually could become the leading destination for tourism in the world.”
“My massage to tourists in the whole world about Afghanistan is don’t necessarily listen to people who have never been to Afghanistan, if you have money and time come to Afghanistan and see it yourself, meet the people, meet the real Afghans who live here and let them share with you the stories about Afghanistan. Don’t frame your idea of Afghanistan based on someone who has never been here and don’t be afraid, Afghanistan is a safe country for foreign tourists at the moment for my experiences, my experiences have been that I feel safe, so do not be afraid if you can come here, enjoy and come.”
When asked about the cost of tourism in Afghanistan he said: “The cost of tourism is very depending that what kind of travel you choose, if you are someone who need luxury than it will be expensive go to Serena Hotel or inter-continental hotel, there you will spend hundreds of dollars every night, it can be very expansive who were somebody like me who is okay living more cheaply and it find the room that night will be two or three dollars in a night it can be cheap 10 to 15 dollar in a day or it can be 100 dollar and a bus will be a few dollars. It can be as cheap to 10 to 15 dollars a day or could be hundreds of dollars a day if you need more luxury.”
On January 24, Frank’s arrest was reported in the Faradod district of Farah province but he said it was misunderstanding
“It was just misunderstanding, they had never seen a tourist like me, it was dark, it was night time so the just running small investigation so who I was.”
“They were very friendly with me, they wouldn’t even let me buy water bottle actually I want to buy some food or water and they would not pay anything, they paid everything, they treat me with respect. I didn’t have any hank cap I was free I was under investigation but I around to walk I was very comfortable they were giving me food and everything.
Franko father Jean-Francois Garneau message about his son’s journey to Afghanistan.
“Last September my son told me about his project to visit central Asia to have an opportunity to discover the landscape of Afghanistan, the people of Afghanistan, I had the opportunity to talk with the people who welcomed my son to their house, I discover people who were open to build relationship with other people. I discover people who share some aspiration that I have for peace. I would thank the people who welcomed my son in their house in Afghanistan, you take care of my son and you take care of his youth and this is very important this is a most beautiful gift that you can make to my son, so I would like to thanks you, and I would like to send my best regards for the whole people of Afghanistan.”