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January 24, 2003

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If you want to know what it's like to be a tourist on your own, come to Herat. Tourism hasn't touched Afghanistan in over 25 years. We dress up in Afghan clothes. I wear a turban, manjamies (as the Army personnel call them) which are knee length frocks, and parachute pants that are tied to the waist with a rope belt. Jill wears a blue burqa that covers her face and body from head to toe. Among the Afghans in these clothes, they can't tell we're not Afghans. It's a special experience to move around unrecognized, witnessing life in a place that has been kept in deep freeze by the Taliban for years, unmarred by tourism. The only foreign influence is the NGOs, UN, and military, who all keep a low profile; you won't see them unless you seek them out. This is how the first tourists saw India, China, and other destinations before the hordes of visitors came and left their mark.
Horsepower and manpower, the main method of locomotion.
Herat was once an important city, a famous stop on the Silk Road, and a religious center for the Timurids and Persians, as those mammoth minarets show.