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In Afghanistan, tourists are "naive and unconscious" supporters of couchsurfing



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Dutchman Ciaran Barr wanted an "authentic" experience for his trip to Afghanistan, which had been at war for nearly four decades. Despite the risks, he decided to visit the country and the backpacker host family via the couchsurfing.com website.

Despite the uncertainty and strong mistrust between the Afghans, marked by so many years of conflict, nearly 2,000 of them, mostly men, offer their home on this platform, which connects travelers and locals who are ready to charge them to accommodate. Founded fifteen years ago in the United States, the site has spread worldwide.

"They seem to have a more authentic urban feel, they are not locked up in tourist traps," says Ciaran Barr of Kabul, where he slept for several nights on a mattress rolled up on his host's rugs.

Before going any further, ironically, "But that's not it like Afghanistan," tourists …

The stage of the hippie route between Europe and South Asia in the 70s left the country the number of its Visitors collapse the years of armed struggle. Since the Soviet invasion of 1

979, Afghanistan has never really known peace.

But every year, dozens of foreigners embark on a dangerous journey across the country, ignoring the demands of their governments for a conflict considered deadliest in the world, with more than 10,000 civilians killed or wounded in 2017 were.

For these backpackers, the host family prevents them from sleeping in hotels that have been converted into fortresses, with armed guards and armored doors.

"Staying with people and getting dressed to go unnoticed makes it possible to travel to Afghanistan safely," says Ciaran Barr, describing a shalwar kameez, trousers, and loose tunic in Afghan style.

"Be Clever"

Couchsurfing is actually a modern version of Afghan hospitality that traditionally forces its residents to provide shelter and shelter to passers-by.

But in a country where there are roguish kidnappings for ransom and where foreigners are the main target, backpackers can only get a picture of their host online through their profile.

"You can end up in a Taliban," warns a Kabul-based diplomat involved in the release of abductees. "It's naive and unconscious."

Caitlan Coleman and Joshua Boyle, an American-Canadian couple backpacking in Afghanistan in 2012, had a bitter experience. They were abducted by the Taliban and handed over to the extremist Haqqani network in Pakistan. They were released in 2017 only five years later. Their three children were born in captivity

In Kabul, Norwegian Jørn Bjørn Augestad, who says he has been couchsurfing in Iraq and the Central African Republic, considers Western governments "too cautious".

"You have to be smart to be in touch with someone from home is the best way to be sure." proclaims the man who has set himself the goal of visiting all the countries of the world before his 30th birthday this year. "It's part of the cultural experience," he continues, "to see how people live, hear their stories, and understand the land in which we find ourselves."

Travel by proxy

Ciaran Barr and Jørn Bjørn Augestad began their holidays in Afghanistan at Mazar-i-Sharif, the great city of the North, for their ancient Blue Mosque and their Bouzkachis, one Kind of rustic polo tournaments known to be a goat carcass looks like a ball

They met through a local travel agency that they found to be drivers to bring them to Kabul, 400 km to the south.

During this journey, they passed through Kunduz, a province where the Taliban-security battle is as regular as it is deadly. Then they crossed the Salang Pass and its endless tunnel built by the Russians.

They finally reached the Afghan capital, the country's most dangerous place for the civilian population, especially as a result of several attacks by the Islamic State group. They found refuge there with Naser Majidi, a 27-year-old technician.

For Afghans who are looking for new experiences but need to look after visas in other countries, the placement of a foreigner makes it possible to represent travelers. He continues, "His family has repeatedly warned him against this activity, which is" very risky "to him and his guests.

Afghanistan is "not as dangerous as it is" "air," says Elyas Yari, 19, who welcomed visitors from Canada, Russia, Mexico and Taiwan in his apartment

.Jørn Bjørn Augestad is still realistic. "In nine of "It's good enough to do something wrong."

"But so far that was not the case, we were also lucky."


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