Afghanistan has an extraordinary history. Its position as the Cockpit of Asia straddling the major routes from east to west including the famous Silk road, has guaranteed this. The historical knowledge of the country in the West has been limited to odd bursts of literature, survivors of Greek and Roman literature, many saved by the translations of Arab Scholars deposited in great Arab libraries. Most of us know of the great expedition and Empire building of Alexander the Great but not much until recently of the preceding Persian Empire which conquered these lands and knit them loosely together, the Empire that Alexander then took. The founding of a Greek based Kingdom after, the Kingdom of Bactria, has excited the imagination of Western Scholars for many years. The archaeological knowledge is waiting for the spade.
The great Arab and Central Asian conquerors are known to us Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni, Genghis Khan, Tamarlane, Babur the great founder of the Moghul dynasty in India, all have swept across Afghanistan and have left their traces in many city foundations. The great religions have left their mark also, Islam of course, nothing can be much finer than the concept of the Friday Mosque in Herat, the great Minaret of Jam, which at last, is revealing its secrets. There are so many secret and not so secret Buddhist sites also. We all know of Bamiyan and the huge Buddha statues destroyed by the Taliban but do many of us know of the Monastery and stupa at Samangan?
We traversed the country in the 1970ís up until the USSR invasion. Group travel and individual travel through Afghanistan developed on the back of the Hippy movement of the sixties and seventies. An interesting time, this movement and involvement with the East looking for the alternative to Westernism, this search for enlightenment with its end point an Ashram in India where you discovered your self.
As Hann Overland we traversed the country from Mashad in Iran via Herat and Kandahar through to Kabul and on to Peshawar in Pakistan, with occasional excursions to Bamiyan right up to 1980. The north was definitely out, anything close to the USSR border was not allowed. Provincial Governors held the reins and mostly it was impossible to get permission to go out of the normal route. Individual travellers, with a flexible time schedule fared better. Trips through the centre actually were achieved in these days by individuals.
However 1980 really saw the end of the group tours or Overland trips through Afghanistan. The visa became insurmountable. We watched with agony the descent into darkness over the next 22 years. Geoff earlier had watched with fascination the parade through Kabul of Kamal and his Communist Government. The Burkha was discarded and a new dawn was proclaimed. But darkness quickly followed with invasion and internecine warfare for 25 years.
So things change and in 2002 Geoff saw a little daylight and did a personal reconnaissance. He managed to frighten himself a little in the south but was totally impressed with the basic unalterable hospitality and need to be involved whatever. So we operated first our Road tour from Iran through to Pakistan in 2003. As the security situation has dramatically improved along with the road structure we have extended our tours. Every year, from 2004 through to today, 2014, we have operated our Central and North Afghanistan route with the Minaret of Jam being a highlight and will continue to do so in the future.