Ras Al Khaimah

Many people only visit Dubai, and dont really see what else the United Arab Emirates have to offer. If it had not been for me being offered a free tour with the Worlds longest zipline I probably also would have not have ventured out on the two hour drive to the city in the North.

Ras Al Khaimah is a city on the border to Oman, which is less populated and developed than Dubai and Abu Dhabi, but still just as interesting to explore.

During my stay there I got to walk the corniche, hang out at the beach and then visit the Toro Verde Zipline in the Jebel Jais mountains.

The one hour drive from RAK city center to the zipline welcoming center was a very scenic one, with serpentine roads going though a mountain landscape looking a bit like the inside of the Grand Canyon.

On the top I was given a briefing and handed out the equipment needed for the zipline. It didnt take long before signing up to the point where I was standing in a pushup position facing my head towards the 2,8kilometer line going over the mountains.

When they let go of my feet and sent me down the line, it was very intense at the beginning, but after 5-6 seconds I had reached my top speed (which they say could be anything from 150km/h to 180km/h) and after that it was a rather peaceful and enjoyable experience. At the bottom I was actually surprised to see that I was only just halfway and still had another zipline to go, which was at an up right position, before I was done.

A Revisit to the Worlds highest building when passing through Dubai again

At the end a shuttle took us up to the top again where we delivered our equipment and could have a rest with the best view before heading down to Ras Al Khaimah again.

Traveling in Afghanistan November 2018

Traveling safely in Afghanistan is all about having the most up to date information. Things here can change quickly, but as of November 2018 these were my observations:

Areas Covered: Mazar-e Sharif, Balkh, Samangan, Kabul, Panjshir Valley and the Hindu Kush/Salang Pass from Mazar to Kabul.

Additional places considered safe: The Wakhan Corridor, Bamyan and Herat.

Company used: Lets Be Friends Afghanistan. Best decision ever!

How it was arranged: Noor from LBFA set me up with a Dutch traveler coming from the Heiratan border and picked me up from Mazar airport. He tailormade a trip for us with

Transport used: Noor traveled with us the whole way, having his cousin driving a regular afghani taxi. By using a more fancy car we would have drawn a lot more attention and with buses/shared taxis there is always the possibility that there is someone from the Taliban onboard who can turn you in. For people who want to be extra cautious, flying between the cities is reccommended.

Clothing: Wear local dresses. LBFA can buy this for you to have it ready upon arrival. Local leather shoes, a vest, scarf and traditional hat together with a Shalwar Kameez dress is the way to go for men. Hijab for women is a must and if you want to be extra cautious there are lots of places selling burqas.

Being interviewed by the Agence France Presse about how it is to travel in Afghanistan

Accommodation: The hotels used were clean, simple and low profile. I will not list the names of the hotels for the security of future travelers, but feel to send me a message and I can give them to you. Using couchsurfing is also a good way to stay safe and have locals to take you around. Just make sure to check their references first!

Trip summary: We stayed three nights in Mazar-e Sharif and drove to Kabul to stay four nights there. Mazar was used as a base to explore Balkh and Samangan and from Kabul we drove up to the Panjshir Valley. I was positively surprised that it was no problem for us to walk through streets and bazaars, relaxing in parks and eating out in restaurants every day. As long as you are with a local who knows the places and speak the language, Afghanistan can be a safe place to visit as a tourist in 2018.

A Day Trip to the Panjshir Valley

Panjshir Valley is considered one of the safest and most peaceful places in Afghanistan, and as it is only about hundred kilometers from Kabul, it makes it a perfect day trip for those who want to escape the traffic and busy life of the capital city.

My couchsurfing host Naser had gathered some of his friends who were free on the weekend, and Friday morning at 7am we set off with two cars filled with good some Afgans, tea and food for a picnic that we had along the way.

The valley was guarded with checkpoints where the police welcomed us warmly after checking the car and our documents. Then we climbed onto the back of our pickup truck to have the best possible view of the beautiful scenery.

There were lots of posters along the way with portraits and slogans honoring Ahmed Shah Massoud who was a jihadi leader fighting the Taliban and the Russians trying to invade the valley. People had even covered traffic signs and the windshields of their cars with his picture, and people seemed to have big pride of him resting in a monument located in the middle of the valley which we went to visit.

The valley was one big graveyard for artillery, tanks and other military vehichles, and we stopped at some of them to take some pictures with beautiful landscape in the background. Sitting on one of the hills with my new friends and a fresh coffee in my hand I felt like I really got to suck in the scenery and the athmostphere and thought what a pity that not more people come to see this. Afghanistan has its dark sides but there is also so much beauty to be discovered and I really hope for the situation to improve so that it can grow as a tourist destination in the future.