Travel Diary: Anoushey visits the not-so-visited Afghanistan

"It's not as unsafe as projected to the world; regular people with regular lives everywhere", says Ashraf
Updated 27 Dec, 2015 04:31pm

Anoushey Ashraf is Pakistan's first known female "Video Jockey". Born in Karachi, Ashraf loves traveling, desi food, music, and everything about her country.

As a VJ, she appeared on the music channel MTV Pakistan. She has also acted in a play for PTV, directed by Saira Kazmi in a 13-episode serial – in which her role was that of a best friend of the lead, played by Marina Khan.

Anoushey Ashraf has a flare for traveling and recording travelogues. A few months back she was in Delhi, India and recently was contacted by the Afghanistan's channel 'Tolo' as their team learnt that she is a travel enthusiast.

Also read: Travel Diary: Anoushey Ashraf goes to Delhi, India

She shared her such an informative journey to Afghanistan with us and clearly she had an amazing time. I would also recommend my readers to read the complete information she has given along with her Instagram pictures, they are truly enlightening!

1. Where did you choose to go and why?

Let's just say I didn't choose this destination, but it chose me! Got a call from integrated media that they wanted me on board for a travel show that shows people the 'soft' side of Afghanistan. Considering the traveler I am, there wasn't much hesitation. In fact I was most excited about traveling to a country very few venture to!

2. Who do you like to travel with?

Not any one person in particular, but I always like to keep the group small; 3-4 people max. Friends, my sisters, etc are always fun to travel with though.

3. What five things did you pack for the trip?

I knew Afghanistan would be super cold, so I carried a couple of really warm jackets, a good book, tons of moisturizer, a nice pair of shades, and a hair dryer so I could look presentable through the trip! ;)

4. What are the best shopping spots there?

Kabul is actually a fun place to shop if you're looking for ethnic stuff. They have some of the world's best hand knotted carpets, amazing dry fruits, and fun jewelry as well. Shah Ra-e-Nau is a fun street to shop on with shops selling almost everything under the sun!

5. Items you purchased during your visit?

I got a couple of carpets (they are breathtaking), some afghani jewelry, a lovely handbag, and lots of amazing dry fruits!!

6. Favourite meal/restaurant?

I must admit, this country has really good produce. Their meat is yum and their fruits and veggies really really fresh so I enjoyed my meals everywhere I went. However, besides the a awesome kabuli palao, afghani tikkas and the usuals, we were made to eat the most amazing localised burgers at a place called Ehsan burger where they wrap up meat, fries, Cole slaw, and all things yummy in a wrap. Was unlike anything I'd seen before! Was awesome.

7. Tell us about the sights no-one should miss out on!

One should make the trek across to Mazar-I-Sharif and definitely visit what the Afghan's believe to be Hazrat Ali (RA)'s shrine. It was nothing short of breathtaking. Mount Bibi Maroh, from where you can get a birds eye view of the city of Kabul was pretty amazing as well.

Woooooh! One word. Breathtaking!!!! #wanderingPakistani #exploretheworld #Nushtravels #mazarisharif

A video posted by anousheyashraf (@anousheyashraf) on

Mazar has been super kind! The crowd on the right is a regular sight behind our cameras. Those kids and their smiles, PRICELESS! Below, the absolutely breathtaking 'araam gah' of what many locals believe to be Imam Ali's final resting place (A.S). Was kinda surreal. Prayers for Pakistan first, as always followed by selfish requests. I did question the authenticity of Hazrat Ali being buried here since we all are very well aware of him being buried in Najaf as confirmed by Imam Jaffar as Sadiq. Here is what I've gathered thanks to an article I read online: ( facts may wary, but it's the jist) According to tradition, in 661, shortly after the murder of Ali and the burial of his body at Najaf, near Baghdad (in present day Iraq), some of Ali's followers worried that his enemies would desecrate his body. Therefore, they decided to remove his body and hide it in a secret location. Ali’s remains were placed on a white female camel, which wandered eastward for several weeks until it ultimately fell to the ground exhausted. The body was then reburied where the camel fell, and its location forgotten. The founding of the actual shrine (highly likely) of Mazari Sharif owes its existence to a dream. At the beginning of the 1100s, a local mullah in the village of Khwaja Khayran had a dream in which Ali bin Abi Talib, Muhammad's cousin and son-in-law and one of the four Rightly Guided Caliphs, appeared to reveal that he had been secretly buried near the city of Balkh (near present day Marzari Sharif). In 1136, after locating the site, the Seljuk sultan Ahmed Sanjar ordered a city and shrine to be built on the spot. Whatever the conflict on the matter, one Imam of the mosque inside explained it best to me. The light of Allah is everywhere, wherever you look for it. For those who believe this is the shrine of one of the greatest men that ever lived, let them believe for there's no harm in that. #yep #openyoureyears even our conflicts are interesting. And it's okay to have a different set of thoughts! #truesay #islamicarchitecture #calligraphy #wowZa #wanderingPakistani #afghanistan #Nushtravels #Travelgram #travel #exploretheworld

A photo posted by anousheyashraf (@anousheyashraf) on

8. Suggest places for a perfect night out

This is tricky, we weren't allowed to 'hang' out too much after Maghreb because we were working with a tv channel that had strict rules of safety for their employees. However, the nights we did manage to get out, I didn't want to do much fancy and wanted to explore the local cafes and juice shops which were pretty amazing. I'd recommend to walk on the streets and discover it to your liking!

9. What can you do over there to relax and unwind?

There are some well known Hamaams there for those interested. Or sheesha at a nice chilled out cafe even though I spent my evenings having warm soup and getting a good book going!

10. Most memorable/favourite moments?

I went cycling with the Afghan National Women's team on the outskirts of Kabul one day. I was their guest. It was AMAZING! It was cold, and cycling with 10 awesome women in Kabul was unthinkable and I'm glad and blessed to have had the opportunity to do such a thing in my life :)

11. Please tell us about your overall trip and experience.

I loved it. It wasn't the most amazing place to travel to, but was surely a place where I was cared for, respected, and loved. Years of warfare have reduced them to looking like monsters to the outside world, it's actually quite the opposite. I'm glad I made the trek. It made me wiser and has certainly given me a better understanding of the world. Will never just judge by what the media feeds us any longer.

The historical city of Herat lies in the NW of Afghanistan and is the regional capital of it's province. One hour away by plane from Kabul and the world around me has changed. This place is like a small, green town in Punjab. Once known as the Pearl of Khorasan, Herat proudly holds on to tradition and even though the city has suffered the ravages of conflict, it has somehow managed to retain its historical footprint and many significant Islamic monuments have survived, telling a thousand stories. Situated only about a 100 Kms from the border of Iran, there's heavy Persian influence everywhere. LonelyPlanet on Herat: (the basics for you to get a better idea) One-time capital of the Timurid empire and seat of learning and the arts, Herat has flourished throughout history as a rich city-state, and been repeatedly fought over. The city is as much Persian as it is Afghan, and wears an air of independence as the country's old cultural heart. Herat's place in history has often been overlooked in favour of Samarkand and Bukhara, but its inhabitants are proud of their past and the city's reputation as a place of culture. Many of Herat's historic monuments are in a sorry state, ruined by British and Russian invaders, but with its Friday Mosque the city still possesses one of Islam's great buildings. The insecurity of the Herat–Kandahar highway occasionally ripples back to disturb the city, while a long-term Iranian influence is never far from the surface. #Myshots #loveyouriphone #AllinADaysWork Top left and bottom Right: Beautiful Glass indigenous of Herat. Top right: Ghulam hamidi proudly showing us some of his 'stuff'. His shop is the biggest/oldest in the city and he insisted his best friend (who looks rather uninterested) be pictured with him Middle top/middle: the beautiful Jaama Masjid that has been a place of worship for over 1200 years Bottom left: The Citadel of Herat, also known as the Citadel of Alexandar, and locally known as Qila Iktyaruddin, is located in the center of Herat in Afghanistan. #Travelgram #travel #Nushtravels #wanderingPakistani #afghanistan

A photo posted by anousheyashraf (@anousheyashraf) on

12. Finally, any tips about the city/country?

It's not as unsafe as projected to the world. Regular people with regular lives everywhere. I would recommend you know someone there.

Conversation with my new best friend who comes up to me after she sees us recording a tv show. Burka babe: something something in Farsi Me: Sorry, I don't speak Farsi... Umm English? Burka babe: Noooo. Hindi ? Me: yes Burka babe: mein aapke saath picture le sakti hoon? Me: ji bilkul, aapki Hindi to bohat achi hai Burka babe: Main Bollywood se seekha hai Me: wow! Bollywood! Mera favourite Ranbir Kapoor Hai Burka babe: mujhe SUNIL SHETTY! Me: what on EARTH x 72 We took this fun picture soon after. She smelled really good and sounded happy. I don't know what she looks like though. I never will. And that's what's unfair. It's true, they love their 90's Bollywood. It's like being stuck in an era of tube lights, plastic colourful plants, Indus Corolla's circa 91-92', big wooden box televisions and songs featuring Sunny Deol for those of you who remember those strange times. It depresses me to be honest, it's on everywhere but somehow makes them really happy. Whatever works, I suppose. Ps: to me this pic speaks volumes of two ladies of different worlds being friends and understanding each other. There is no judgement for our different lifestyles. I'm surprised at the love Afghanis have shown another 'Muslim' woman with no hijab, wearing a pair of jeans and hanging around their cities! Tolerance, acceptance and love wins!!!! #whatliesbeneath #isensedamassivesmile #Blessher #wanderingPakistani #travel #Travelgram #exploretheworld #Nushtravels #afghanistan #burka

A photo posted by anousheyashraf (@anousheyashraf) on

However travel light, the airport security is next level and lugging all those heavy bags isn't fun. Keep activities for the day because there isn't much to do when the sun goes down. Keep the trip short and keep hopping around the safe cities. It's safer, more fun, and you can easily explore the small cities in a day and a half. Follow my Instagram on Anoushey Ashraf and I've given a million tips throughout over there :)