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Takht-e Safar

Spread across a hill 5km north of Herat, Takht-e Safar is a popular place for picnics. Built as a pleasure garden for Sultan Baiqara in the 14th century, it’s an oasis of green, with good views to the city. It’s a popular place for picnics and to catch the sunset (when cars full of wedding parties often descend on the scene). At the bottom of the hill is a small theme park, complete with rides and a giant con- crete pigeon. As you go up the hill, you pass a large swimming pool, popular with men species in the summer months. There’s a small café offering drinks and ice cream. Further up the hill is a wedding club, backed by a large mural of Ismail Khan with Ahmad Shah Massoud. Climbing these steps provides the best views of Herat.

Pul-e Malan

This fine old 22-arched bridge is a few kilometres south of the city, visible from the road when driving from the airport. Believed to have been constructed by the Seljuks in the early 12th century, it has survived the floods that have washed away countless other bridges on the Hari Rud. According to legend, two sisters, Bibi Nur and Bibi Hur, collected egg shells to mix with the clay of the bricks, making the structure stronger than steel. It’s no longer used for motor traffic, but is worth a visit for its picturesque setting.


Sleeping options should change dramati- cally in Herat during the life of this book, with the opening of the city’s first five-star hotel under construction on the outskirts near Takht-e Safar.

Jam Hotel (x040 223477; Darb Khosh; s/d 300/

600Afg) Tucked away in the Old City, this is Herat’s best budget option. The rooms are basic, but have had a bit of a spruce-up since we last visited, making them good value for the price. The shared bathrooms are very simple and there’s a restaurant for pulao (a rice dish) and kebabs. Rooms at the back have a great view of the Old City, overlooking the Friday Mosque.

Park Hotel (x040 223010; Park-e Girdha, r US$20)

Built in the 1930s, the Park is Herat’s old- est hotel – Robert Byron stayed here while

writing The Road to Oxiana. It’s a cavern-

Book accommodation online at lonelyplanet.lonelyplanet.comcom

ous, colonial-style place complete with creaky beds and overstuffed chairs, and surrounded by pine trees. All rooms are en suite. The hotel was being used mainly as a wedding hall when we visited. Full of potential, it just needs a little love (and money) spent on its upkeep.

Mowafaq Hotel (x040 223503; Chowk-e Gulha; with bathroom s/d US$20/30) Currently Her-

at’s largest hotel, the Mowafaq is a trusty standby and conveniently located between the Old City and the New Town. The good- sized rooms are clean but everything feels a bit tired and dusty. The pool hasn’t seen water in years. Get a room looking out to the minarets if you can.

Marco Polo Hotel (x040 221944; heratmarcopolo@; Jad-e Badmurghan; s/d from US$41/51, with

bathroom US$72/82; ai) This friendly and ever-expanding hotel is a great option. The rooms aren’t elaborate, but there’s 24-hour hot water, free internet, and helpful staff. The more expensive rooms also come with a free (nonalcoholic) minibar and laundry. Breakfast is included – a huge spread of bread, cheese, yogurt, eggs and fruit.

Green Place Guest House (x070 405905; Jad-e

Mahbas, lane 2; r US$50; ai) A small family-

run guesthouse with a friendly atmosphere, the Green Place (there is a garden) is a pleasant escape from the city. There are half a dozen rooms, all spotlessly clean and with shared bathroom. Prices include breakfast – dinner is available on request.


The Persian influence on Herati culture can easily be seen when you go out for a meal. Iranian-style rice (steamed and topped with sour sumac berries) is served as much as Afghan pulao. Locals also have a prefer- ence for black tea (sucked through a sugar- cube) over the green tea drunk in the rest of Afghanistan.

Arghawan Restaurant (x040 221919; Chowk-e

Cinema; kebab meal 200Afg; h10am-10pm) Popular

with middle-class Heratis and internationals alike, the attraction here isn’t so much the formal dining room as the outside seating area, strewn with bolsters to slump against for shade from the daytime. The set meals are excellent value, comprising soup, salad, bread, rice, kebabs, tea and a soft drink.

Yas Restaurant (Park-e Girdha; menu from 60-

200Afg) One of the few places we found

in Herat serving mantu (a type of ra- violi), Yas also has a decent range of ke- babs with rice, salad and yogurt. The pizzas are disappointing in comparison. The restaurant always seems to be busy – its success has allowed it to buy what could be Herat’s largest TV.

Shahiste Restaurant (Jad-e Badmurghan; meals

200Afg) On the 1st floor of the Marco Polo Hotel, this restaurant offers good Iranian- style food. The menu often only has a cou- ple of dishes, but makes up for this with generous plates of salad, pickled vegetables and yogurt.

Brothers Mohabbat Gaznavi Restaurant (Darb

Khosh; meals from 50Afg) One of the better large kebab joints, busy at any time of day or night. It serves up an endless procession of kebabs, pulao and chai. Female travellers may find themselves directed upstairs to the family dining room.

Al Capon Restaurant (Jad-e Badmurghan; meals from

100Afg) According to the sign, ‘Al Capon’ was a cowboy, but he rustles up a decent plate of rice and kebabs. Salads and a few Western- style fast-food items fill out the menu.

Toos Restaurant (Jad-e Walayat; pizzas 150Afg)

Good for those wanting a break from Af- ghan fare, this place does a good imitation of Western fast food. Tasty pizzas are eat-in or takeaway, along with a few interesting variations on the hamburger theme.

Ice cream parlour (Bazaar-e Malek Zagarha; ice cream

from 40Afg) This is the best place for ice cream in the Old City. With its low ceiling, wall carpets and Bollywood posters, it’s a cosy place to tuck into a bowl of rosewater and pistachio ice cream. Afghan women eat here too.


•• Shopping 141

there’s hardly room to sit down – but these hole-in-the-wall joints are perfect if you’re in need of a quick kebab. Itinerant fruit sellers push carts around the Old City and there’s also a market next to the Friday Mosque. If you’re after im- ported goods, there’s a good supermarket (Jad-e Badmurghan) near the Marco Polo Hotel. It even has its own shopping trolleys.


Herat is famous for its blue glass, hand- made in a rough and chunky style. If you’re lucky enough for it to survive Afghanistan’s roads, it makes a great souvenir.

Sultan Hamidy (north side of Friday Mosque) Sultan

Hamidy (or Ahmad) and his family have been making Herati glass for generations. The tiny factory is two doors down from the shop, with glass-blowing every couple of days. The shop itself is an Aladdin’s Cave, with everything from glass and metalwork to rugs, beads and embroidery, all displayed as an anarchic explosion of stock. Prepare to spend hours looking for antiques, both old and new. Carpet Merchants (Darb Khosh) One of the best places to buy carpets from the region is di- rect from the wholesale merchants who oc- cupy this serai on Darb Khosh. Carpets and gilims festoon the balconies and courtyard, indicating that you’re in the right place. Herati carpets are usually deep red, although the merchants buy from across the west and northwest as well as eastern Iran – Baluchi styles are also sold in large numbers.

Juice in 4 Fasl (Chowk-e Gulha; juice from 20Afg)

Bright and shiny, this juice bar has wonder- ful juices and smoothies, from thick banana to tart pomegranate. There’s ice cream too, slathered with mango puree, and an up- stairs seating area that’s perfect for watch- ing Herat go about its business.

Khorram Brothers Store (Park e-Gulha; snacks from

30Afg) In the small park by Chowk-e Gulha, this snack bar sells a few kebabs plus hot and cold drinks including, unusually, coffee. It’s almost worth visiting just for the fountain opposite – a concrete kitsch masterpiece of towering bears, goats and waterbirds.

Kebab sellers (Darb Khosh) Calling these

places chaikhanas would be far too grand –


Kam Air (x040 228951; Park-e Gulha) flies daily

to Kabul (3250Afg, one hour), and every Monday and Thursday to Mazar-e Sharif

(2500Afg, 50 minutes). Ariana Afghan Airlines

(x040 222315; Park-e Gulha) also has a daily serv- ice to Kabul (3200Afg). At the bottom of Sarakh-e Shahzada,

there are large buses to Kabul (600Afg, one day), which continue onto Mazar-e Sharif (1000Afg, two days). Note, however, that these travel to the extremely dangerous southern highway through Kandahar and cannot be recommended. In the same area you’ll also find transport offices with buses to Iran, with daily departures to Mashhad (270Afg, seven hours) and Tehran (700Afg, two days).


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