I did finally make to Herat. Sorry there was a gap in the emails. I wrote them but wasn’t able to send them- so this is an amalgamation of them all. Heart had its ups and downs. We landed in the evening and I was surprised at how green it seemed with its tree lined straight roads and numerous parks. It is about 130 km from the Iranian border and Neer says that it has more of an Iranian feel to it than Mazaar and Kabul.
Looking out the window I noticed that many of the women were showing their faces! What liberation. … instead of the Burka they were wearing the more traditionally Iranian dress that is more like a big black sheet.
My initial impression may have been a bit premature …. it turned out that you were either of the Burka wearing camp or the Iranian Sheet wearing camp (sure that has a name) and very few women were in between. This made it difficult for us to go out without quite a lot of problems.
The next morning we were only 5 minutes out of the house before the police pulled us over, unhappy at our tinted windows (a new law). They then thought I was filming them (wish I had been). They become increasingly rude- waving their guns and called the Afghan Intelligence (FBI equivalent) who rocked up 5 minutes later in a 4 by 4 with a machine gun on the back. Khalid took it all in his stride and a few calls later we were in the clear. I wasn’t scared during the experience, only as I was with Khalid, but it made me realise how vulnerable the average Afghan is. If you don’t have connections to help you those with guns can demand what they want. I saw them openly taking bribes from other driver who they were harassing. Who are they accountable to?
The rest of the day we spent visiting historical sites around the city. The most famous being the Minarets of Herat, one of which has the remains of an old Russian tank sitting next to it.
During the Majahideen/War Lord years 1992-1995/6 Ismael Khan, who received arms from Iran, controlled the city. When the Taliban came he fled to Iran but he has now returned and again has a major control on the city. He’s views on women are less than progressive ….and he is involved in lots of corruption. I don’t know much about him- but I’m not a big fan.
I was quite pleased to get back to Kabul on Thursday. Had a lovely meal that night with Rupert my Dads friend, picked up some last gifts and headed to the airport as the snow was beginning to settle.
To end an adrenaline provoking trip I had my first nightmare experience of being the “Doctor on Board” on the plane. :-s!!! If you are a doctor, especially a junior one then you know the cold swear that the call “Is there a doctor on board?” can give. Luckily it was a child with a febrile convulsion but when your thousands of feet high in the air even that is petrifying.
That’s the end of the trip now. I SURVIVED. Just one more flight from Dubai to London. Hope you enjoyed reading my mails. I loved writing them.
Ill be back in Brighton now- no annual leave till July so come visit.