Afghanistan’s first ever female tour guide is launching a second virtual tour with Untamed Borders, after the success of her first online sessions, showcasing Herat.
Fatima Haidari used to offer in person guiding around the city with the adventure travel company, but had to flee for her safety when the Taliban retook control of the nation in 2021.
Ever since Fatima has offered online tours for tourists from around the world and will soon be launching a new route covering Central Afghanistan.
The new offering, which includes a Q&A session with Fatima, will cover an area spanning from the capital Kabul in the east, to the central Bamian Province, Ghor Province and finishing in Herat, in the west.
Virtual tourism is a fast-growing industry - a report by Fortune Business Insights found the virtual tour software market is expected to grow from $384million in 2023 to $941.3million by 2030.
In the past year alone the industry grew by around $44million.
The COVID pandemic played an important role in making tourism providers, tourist boards and museums think differently about how they deliver their services or showcase their venues, during the times of restrictions.
This opened many people’s eyes to the benefits of virtual tours, helping transport people to locations, attractions or museums for a fraction of the price of a holiday.
This trend has continued post pandemic, with more people now eco-conscious and the cost-of-living crisis, in places like the UK, having an impact on how much disposal income people have.
Virtual tours allow people to sample corners of the globe, which they may never otherwise have opportunity to travel to, and are an accessible form of tourism, which has little impact on the environment, especially in comparison to flying.
Untamed Borders Founder James Willcox says, “We never envisaged running virtual tours, but when Fatima had to leave Afghanistan, we wanted to find a way to support her.
Fatima has always been an excellent tour guide, and we really enjoyed working with her in Herat, so helping Fatima to continue her work in some way was important to us.
The tours offer a fascinating insight into life in Afghanistan and although virtual tourism will never replace the sensory overload of an actual trip to a country, they offer the next best thing for someone who can’t travel to the nation.”
New virtual tour includes one Afghanistan’s most beautiful regions
For Fatima the new virtual tour, which she will be offering through Untamed Borders, has a particularly special place in her heart.
It includes the stunning Bamian Province, an area of immense natural beauty, which includes the beautiful Band-e-Amir Lakes and National Park, which became Afghanistan’s first national park in 2009.
This region is symbolic – historically women in Bamian Province enjoyed relatively more freedom than elsewhere in the country, however, this has also recently changed under the Taliban – with women banned from Band-e-Amir.
Fatima says people deserve to be able to see this natural gem and she is looking forward to showing the positive side of her nation…
“Bamian has always been my favourite place, it’s a paradise and traditionally peaceful, with beauty and also freedom for men and women.
I was also born in Ghor Province, lived in Herat for many years, where I also guided, and I’ve spent time in Kabul.
So for me, this new virtual tour feels like a personal journey.”
For Fatima, the virtual tours are helping her to remain in close connection with her homeland and serve a greater purpose than just showcasing the nation’s beauty, as Fatima explains….
“I feel like I’m fighting back against the Taliban and defying their restrictions.
I’m not only personally disobeying their restrictions, but I am also helping to support 4 regular classes for women to study in Afghanistan and other people are helping too.”
New virtual tour helps fund women’s education in Afghanistan
Behind closed doors women in Afghanistan are taking a stand, with some brave women setting up secret schools.
The risks are high, but the uptake is increasing, with projects like Untamed Borders’ virtual tours, providing a vital source of funding to pay for the teachers’ time, along with books and other learning material at the classes, as Fatima explains…
“At the classes the aim is to offer the girls and women English skills, which can help create opportunities abroad.
The sessions also offer the women mental health support and advice, with many people suffering mental health difficulties due to the changes brought in by the Taliban.
The aim is to help empower women, offer support, some language skills and give them more information about women’s rights.”.
Along with Fatima’s own work to support these classes financially, some guests on the virtual tours also kindly donate personally to help further the work.
The Afghanistan Central Route virtual tour with Fatima launches in October, with the first session bookable now on the Untamed Borders website.
Fatima is also continuing with her Herat virtual tours, which are also bookable on the Untamed Borders website.