Tired of all the Pak-Afghan rhetoric on news channels and social media? Think that Khyber Pass, the ancient gateway between Pakistan and Afghanistan, has now been turned into one of the world’s most dangerous places? Well, here is some news for you – Tourists can visit Khyber without trouble and have a great time on their trip!
Like Australian national Jessica Mudditt who jumped at the opportunity to travel to Pakistan, fulfilling her wish to visit the country.
A Freelance Journalist, Jessica is also a blogger whose love for travel, food and lifestyle is prominent through every post on her social media accounts. Considering it’s no easy task for a Brit to apply for a visa to travel to Pakistan, Jessica crossed that hurdle with ease, opening up to a world of experiences that awaited her in Pakistan. Speaking of her trip she says, “When booking the trip the day before, I’d imagined traversing the route made legendary by the likes of Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan and Marco Polo in something more sturdy and racy. Tinted windows would have satisfied me, I thought grumpily.
Jessica traveled along the Khyber Pass along with her guide and an armed guard. Of course, being a blogger she dutifully posted her adventures on her blog. Here is a look at all the fun she had (psst.. and no, she didn’t face any trouble or problem during her trip). For all the pics, visit her blog: jessicamudditt.com.
She had the famous afghan chapli kebab for lunch in a carvan serai, and don’t we all know how much fun that can be?
Jessica says, “We sat on charpoys in hungry silence before a plate of chabli kebabs and flatbread arrived. The meat reminded me of my mother’s homemade rissoles – it was curious to be reminded of Australia at a time when I’d never felt so far from it.”
Jessica not only enjoyed a traditional Pakhtun lunch in a serai but also posed with an AK-47 which she describes as ‘the standard tourist pose’ on The Khyber Pass. “When we pulled over at the 1072 meter summit in Landi Kotal, the guard patiently handed over his semi-automatic weapon to us while we posed for photographs that would justify a raised eyebrow from Interpol,” she added.
To our surprise, she was well aware of the political and diplomatic situation of the area.
“And as the Khyber Pass is the most important supply route for NATO forces fighting in neighboring Afghanistan, the Taliban attacks convoys and kidnaps commuters with brutal regularity. Pakistan has attempted to clear the area by launching numerous military offensives, but justifiably condemned NATO air strikes for killing Pakistani troops,” she says.
Jessica found Pashtuns welcoming, hospitable and peace-loving throughout her trip
Jessica explained that the Pathan people will never harm a guest even if that is an enemy and even though the Taliban are mostly Pathans, the hospitality and peace-loving nature of Pathans is worth-mentioning. “Although it is believed that the Taliban is itself mostly comprised of Pathans, travelers ought to take note of one very important difference between the two groups: whilst the Pathans are exceptionally hospitable and enforce collective tribal punishments on those who commit crimes against travelers, the Taliban prefer to annihilate them.” she says.
Jessica also noticed the kids going to school which she says is a sign of hope for peace and quality of life.
“We sped past the curiously named Khyber Model School seemingly just as the bell rang. Smiling boys in blue punjabis ran out from underneath its arched sign as I frantically tried to capture the rare glimpse of “normal” life. It’s unlikely that the school still stands today, as the Taliban have blown up the majority” she added.
Speaking of the red pillar on the final bend that bodes travelers a farewell from the Khyber Rifles, an irregular corps of militia recruited from the tribes of the Khyber Agency, she says “Later, when studying my photos, I noticed that the pillar’s margin contained not one etching of graffiti, but two, by some joker called “Wasim.” I smiled at the seemingly limitless nature of human cheekiness”.
What she describes as the most adventurous-then impossible-now journey along the Khyber Pass, finally ended as she drove back with the guide to his office in Peshawar. “And so it seemed that our trip had passed without incident. I tapped my feet along to the blaring Urdu pop cassette while eagerly anticipating a trip to an internet cafe where I would share my photographs via email attachment,” she summarizes.
Before the tragic incident of the 9/11, there used to be hundreds of foreigners coming to visit Khyber but as of now, the prevailing perilous scenario in both Pakistan and Afghanistan doesn’t augur well for travelers to venture near the Khyber in the near future.
Wikitravel still warns people to have passes and armed security if attempting the Khyber Pass — and helpfully offers travel hints like how to recognize drones, which are “characterized by the loud buzzing noise they make”.
Yet there are some who believe this is possible.
“Today, after the recent years of Afghans fighting Russians and each other and streams of refugees crossing east to Pakistan, it is again fairly easy for a Western tourist with some resources to visit the Khyber Pass to try to imagine what on earth those Brits were thinking way back then.” says Ken Jackson, Author at sandiegoreader.com.