Major tourist site restored in Herat, Afghanistan. Please send me there!

While Afghanistan may not be high on your places-to-go list, the government is trying hard to offer more sightseeing opportunities.

A giant citadel overlooking the city of Herat has just reopened after several years and $2.4 million of restoration. The citadel dates back to when Alexander the Great’s armies marched across Afghanistan on their way to India in 330 BC. It was used by a succession of dynasties and cultures before being destroyed by the Mongols. Most of the current citadel dates to the 14th and 15th centuries.

The restoration was done with the help of the U.S. and German governments and the Aga Khan Trust for Culture. The National Museum of Herat has opened inside the citadel, showcasing artifacts from the region’s long history.

The citadel was a favorite stop on the old Asian overland hippie trail in the 1960s and 70s popularized by Lonely Planet. While Afghanistan is courting tourists once again and a few hardy adventure travel companies such as Hinterland Travel are offering tours, only a trickle of visitors are coming to this ancient region.

Afghanistan has always been at the top of my list of places to go. I visited Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province in the 1990’s and spent several pleasant weeks among the Afghan communities there. Afghanistan’s long history and varied cultures would make a great Gadling series. I gave you Ethiopia, I gave you Somaliland, and I’d love to give you Afghanistan. . .

. . .but I can’t afford it. So I’m asking for your help. If you’d like to see a boots-on-the-ground series on Afghanistan written by yours truly, say so in the comments section and tell AOL to be my sugar daddy. I really want to go, and if enough of you vote, maybe they’ll send me! Tell your friends to vote too!

[Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons]

A dozen lucky people are going to Afghanistan!

Bored with the usual travel fare? Get in touch with Poland-based Logos Travel, and you could find yourself in Afghanistan for two weeks. All 12 spots have been purchased – at prices of up to $3,700 each. Poland’s Foreign Ministry doesn’t think this is a bright idea, though, and issued a travel warning … as if one were necessary.

In case you didn’t know, people are fighting over there. With guns and bombs and grenades and everything else they can find. In fact, a shipment of cigars for U.S. soldiers serving in Afghanistan was delayed because of the intensity of the fighting.

Currently, 1,600 Polish troops are among the NATO forces fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan.

According to Marek Sliwka, owner of Logos Travel, security measures are being taken, including armed guards. The trip starts on May 2, but it could be scrapped if the fighting becomes too intense. Stops include Kabul, Herat, and the site of the two giant Buddha statues that were destroyed at the turn of the century. The Tora Bora caves were once considered a possibility, but this was cut from the itinerary for safety reasons.


The Places In Between

We’re not shy about plugging First, listening to books gives our computer-weary eyes a needed rest. Two, schlepping around an iPod is easier than a big, new hardcover. Third, often the authors themselves read the books, adding an extra dimension that reading can’t touch. ( version of Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential, anyone?)

We’ve been hearing about another book for a while and we mentioned it a few months ago, but hadn’t picked it up until just now, because now we can hear it from Rory Stewart’s The Places in Between.

What makes this book special? Mr. Stewart walked across Asia solo. The book is about just a relatively small portion of that trip: walking–as in on foot–across Afghanistan during the war in 2002. He’s a young, Farsi and Persian-speaking, former British diplomat and current resident of Kabul, and his tale is fascinating. He re-traced the steps of a 16th Century Muslim Emperor (Babur), straight across the country, across high mountain passes–in the middle of winter–from Herat to Kabul.

You’ll definitely gain new insights into the culture and people of Afghanistan and hearing it directly from the author himself is well worth a listen. It’s surprising and interesting, and you’ll definitely learn a lot. We sure did.