Afghanistan: Uncharted piece of land

International Tourism: Whenever it’s come to Central Asia’s one of the most important and unexplored land locked country Afghanistan, everyone is just wondering that what will be the most attractive or adventurous thing one can do at this country. So, here we are going to introduce their one of the most highlighted winter experiences “Ski Sport”. There is no better way to explore Afghanistan’s Bamyan Province. Bamyan is Afghanistan’s famous tourist site for archeological monuments and beautiful landscape, now the local authorities hope the introduction of winter sports can draw thousands of international tourists and domestic sightseers during what was once thought to be an off-season for the remote central province.

When it comes to skiing, the snow-capped mountains of Bamyan are some of the best places to go.  Bamyan’s frosty winter weather, steep slopes and relative security have popularized skiing in the province. However, there are no ski-lifts, no chalets and certainly no après-ski. In the absence of sporting infrastructure, it was recently announced that two skiers from Bamyan will be representing Afghanistan at the 2018 PyeongChang‎ Winter Olympics in South Korea. Bamyan is also the venue for the annual Afghan Ski Challenge – which counts ‘no weapons allowed’ amongst its rules.

The hills of this peaky area are carpeted with the layers of fresh snow; they have some of the best and highest ski slopes in the world. Ski slopes of Bamyan region provides a platform for the adventurers- from beginners to professionals. The Afghan Ski Challenge is a backcountry ski race, which takes place every spring in Bamyan Province, Central Afghanistan. The event is organized by the Bamyan Ski Club and open to all. Bamyan is the other, unknown Afghanistan. In the era of 70s a famous destination on the hippie trail to India, does Bamyan today welcome travelers back once again. The race which was organized in February 2015 had included 30 participants from Afghanistan and 20 international competitors from the US, Australia, Norway, Slovenia, Finland, New Zealand, France and the UK.

Bamiyan is also trying to position itself as a destination for winter sports through the Afghan Ski Challenge, which in 2015 saw 20 international competitors, including from the from the U.S., Australia and France, race alongside 30 Afghan participants.

The efforts seem to be paying off, with the number of tourists to the province surging to 250,000 so far this year — up from 100,000 last year — the region’s acting director of information and culture told the Institute for War and Peace Reporting last month. However, almost all the visitors were local with only a handful — 396 — coming from overseas.

James Wilcox, one of the co-founders of the Bamiyan Marathon, has been taking tourists to Afghanistan for years with his travel company, Untamed Borders. This year, it organized 35 trips there including trekking and cultural tours, as well as skiing trips. In all they took about 110 tourists. In 2016, they took 93.

Other major attractions in Afghanistan:

  • Afghanistan’s Blue Mosque:The Blue Mosque has been described as an oasis for peace, and it really does seem like it, considering the thousands of white doves surrounding the mosque. The doves flock on the trees, the roof, and the sidewalks. Legend has it the mosque is so sacred that any dove with a speck of color on its feathers will instantly become pure white after entering the mosque’s vicinity.
  • Minaret of Jam – Built in the late 12th century, the minaret was once connected to a great mosque along the riverbank, and evidence of the building and a massive courtyard have also been found near the site. Some scholars have suggested that the minaret is the only remaining structure from the lost city of the Turquoise Mountain, one of the greatest urban civilizations of its time, and a bastion of tolerance, where all religions were accepted. The rest of the lost city perished during Mongol invasions in the 1220s possibly leaving behind only the minaret.
  • Band-E-Amir – The lakes of Band-e Amir are an incredibly stunning sight. Six deep blue lakes suddenly appear like sparkling jewels in the middle of the barren grey wasteland of Central Afghanistan that stretches as far the eye can see. The lakes’ waters are composed of a high mineral content, which is responsible for the deep blue colour of the lakes.
  • Chilzina and the Forty Steps of Kandahar-Rock-cut chamber at top of an outcroup, reached by a mountain stairway of forty steps. Sometimes, simplicity speaks volumes. A short tower can seem imposing on a featureless plain. A tiny word can say a lot if it’s on a blank wall. And 40 simple steps can tell a complex story of perseverance and dominance, if they’re carved into the mountainside leading to its peak.
  • Marjan the Lion Memorial-Before the mid-1990s civil war in Afghanistan, the Kabul Zoo housed many exotic animals. Unfortunately, most were killed or escaped during the fighting. But some remained in captivity, in dire conditions, throughout the surrounding conflicts.The zoo’s most celebrated former resident was Marjan the lion (“marjan” means “coral” in Persian). There are multiple claims about his age—some say he was born in the ‘60s, other reports claim the ‘70s. The Cologne Zoo donated him to the Kabul Zoo, the kingdom he shared for the majority of his life with a lioness named Chucha. Marjan’s story is not a happy one. In 1995, a man (some say a guerilla soldier) either attempting to prove his bravery or for a bet, climbed into Marjan’s enclosure. Although Chucha permitted the man to stroke her, Marjan was not so tolerant of the intrusion and pounced upon the man, subsequently mauling him to death.

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