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


Dutch Ciaran Barr wanted a "genuine" 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 backpacker's homestead via the couchsurfing.com website.

Despite the uncertainty and strong distrust between the Afghans, shaped by so many years of conflict, nearly 2,000 of them, mostly men, offer their home on this platform connecting travelers and locals ready to host them for free. The site, created about fifteen years ago in the United States, has spread throughout the world.

"You have the impression of having a more authentic feel of the city. You are not locked in tourist traps," says Ciaran Barr of Kabul, where he slept several nights on a mattress that was rolled up on his host's carpets.

Before continuing, full of irony: "But it's not as if there were in Afghanistan", tourists …

Steps required by the "hippie" route between Europe and South Asia in the 1

970s saw the country The number of visitors collapsed this year of armed struggle. Since the Soviet invasion of 1979, Afghanistan has never really felt peace.

But dozens of foreigners are still starting a dangerous journey across the country every year, ignoring governments' talks to stay away from a conflict considered deadliest in the world, with more than 10,000 civilians killed or injured in 2017. [19659003] For those backpackers, being resident is prevented from sleeping in hotels converted to fortresses, with armed guards and armored doors.

"Living with people and getting dressed to go unnoticed makes it possible to travel to Afghanistan without taking too much risk," says Ciaran Barr. a shalwar kameez, pants and a loose tunic in afghan manner.

"Being smart"

Soffsurfing is actually a modern version of the Afghan hospitality that traditionally forces its residents to provide protection and protection for people passing by.

But in a country where mischievous kidnappings against passwords are superfluous and where foreigners are the primary targets, backpackers can only get an idea of ​​their host through their profile online.

"You may end up in a Taliban," warns a diplomat who is posted in Kabul, involved in the disclosure of victims of kidnappings. "It's naive and unconscious."

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

In Kabul, Norwegian Jørn Bjørn Augestad met, who says he has already practiced sofa surfing in Iraq and the Central African Republic, but believes that Western governments are "too cautious".

"You have to be smart, to be in contact with someone from home is the best way to be safe" proclaims the man who has set a goal to visit all the countries of the world before his 30th birthday this year. "It is part of the cultural experience," he continues, "to see how people live, to listen to their stories and to understand the country we are in."

Travel with proxy

Ciaran Barr and Jørn Bjørn Augestad started their week's Afghan holiday by Mazar-i-Sharif, the big city in the north, known for its old blue mosque and its bouzkachis, type of rustic polo tournaments where a goat hook acts as a bullet

They met through a local travel agency, who found them a driver to take them to Kabul, 400 km further south.

During this road crossing Kunduz, a province where fighters are as common as it is deadly between the Taliban and the security forces. Then they crossed the Salang Pass and its infinite tunnel built by the Russians.

They finally reached the Afghan capital, the most dangerous place for the country for civilians, especially because of several attacks by the Islamic State group. They found refuge there at Naser Majidi, a 27-year-old technician.

For Afghans who are keen on new experiences, but are struggling to obtain visas in other countries, housing a foreigner can make it possible to travel by proxy. "I can show them the beauty of this country," he continues. His family, however, has warned him against this activity, which they consider "very risky" for 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 to his home

Jørn Bjørn Augestad is still realistic." nine times out of ten, "he admits." It is enough for it to go wrong once. "

" But so far it has not been so, we have also been lucky. "

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