My first experience with Afghanistan was to stroll around outside Kabul in search of a simcard, some food and to change some local currency. It felt quite natural to walk around in my shalwar kameez dress and talk to the locals, just like in any other Central Asian country, but I knew that if I wanted to get out of the cities it would be good to go with someone local so I had contacted Noor from Lets Be Friends Afghanistan, who met me at Mazar e Sharif airport later that evening and would show me his country the safe way.
He met me the next morning at 7am, ready to drive to the Hairatan border to pick up a Dutch traveler who would join our itinerary for the next few days. From there we went straight to the city of Balkh, just some 20 kilometers North East from Mazar e Sharif.
The 9 pillar mosque from the 8th century
Our first stop was at the 9 pillar mosque from the 8th century, which still had some of its pillar decoration intact. To me it looked much like a Zoroastrianist Temple, and I later learned that the city was mainly Zoroastrianist before islam came to the country.
The remaining walls and towers from the house of Alexander the Great
Second up was a stop at the house of Alexander the Great, which was massive, but only some mud walls and towers remained. At the gate entry there was a huge swing and a small house that Noor explained to us that was used to smoke hash. We went inside and met some very friendly but stoned people who demonstrated how their massive pipe worked.
For the end of the tour we stopped at the green mosque in the city center and relaxed a bit at the park outside. Apparently Balkh is not the safest place to be so our walk around the market and the streets afterwards was brief before returning to Mazar e Sharif.
A gigant swing in the middle where the house of Alexander the Great used to be