Five Lions in Afghanistan (Page 3 of 3)

The efforts to boost the tourist appeal of the valley aside, there’s always an influx of visitors on September 9 each year as thousands of Tajik pilgrims come to honour Massoud on the anniversary of his death.

Death of a Warrior

On September 9, 2001, two suicide bombers disguised as journalists reportedly detonated explosives hidden in their camera, bringing Massoud’s life to a violent end.

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Still, although September 9 is a national holiday in Afghanistan, Massoud is an icon only to his own people—don’t expect to find his portrait on a car windshield of an Uzbek or the walls of a tea house run by a Pashtun.

We travel on as far as the tiny village of Omars. ‘Don’t drive any further,’ says a fishermen as we approach, echoing a warning given by the soldiers at the valley checkpoint. We are told that this road leads out of the peaceful ‘island’ that is the Panjshir Valley, meandering towards Badakhshan Province, where the Taliban presence is said to be growing.

Heading home, it’s hard not to wonder if the valley will succeed in exploiting its relative calm as a selling point for tourists. Already, some local and even foreign tourists have been taking advantage of the scenery, including a group of Canadian expats based in Kabul who I’m told come here every spring to try out the rapids created when the snow from the Hindu Kush summits melts into a swirling torrent as it descends toward the southern desert. 

Until an elusive peace can be found in Afghanistan, though, such visitors to the valley will probably have much of the scenery for themselves.

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