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Afghanistan Postcard: The Thrill of a Boat Ride

The captain, Janagal Karimi, left, learned to drive a boat while working in Iran and the Persian Gulf. He says the first day that he brought the boat to the river, "nobody dared to get into it because they didn't think I would be able to drive it."
Photos: Ivan Watson, NPR
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The captain, Janagal Karimi, left, learned to drive a boat while working in Iran and the Persian Gulf. He says the first day that he brought the boat to the river, "nobody dared to get into it because they didn't think I would be able to drive it."

Afghanistan has experienced a number of startling changes in the 4 1/2 years since the overthrow of the Taliban. As the country opens up to the outside world, and as some Afghans feel more and more secure, they have begun experimenting with new businesses and investments.

Now, boat rides on a river north of Kabul offer a new form of entertainment and transport for an otherwise landlocked country.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

On the Friday weekend holiday, large crowds gather on the banks of the Sayat River in the Shomali Plain, to gawk at what, for most, is the first boat they have ever seen. In fact, the owner claims it's the first boat ever in this landlocked country.
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On the Friday weekend holiday, large crowds gather on the banks of the Sayat River in the Shomali Plain, to gawk at what, for most, is the first boat they have ever seen. In fact, the owner claims it's the first boat ever in this landlocked country.
For the equivalent of 40 cents, the captain takes Afghans on a five-minute ride through the Sayat River's fast current. For many Afghans, it's the first time they've ever set foot inside a boat.
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For the equivalent of 40 cents, the captain takes Afghans on a five-minute ride through the Sayat River's fast current. For many Afghans, it's the first time they've ever set foot inside a boat.
A boat full of passengers is launched as crowds look on.
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A boat full of passengers is launched as crowds look on.
Normally, Afghans come to spend their Fridays on the banks of the river, riding horses and picnicking.  The arrival of "Afghanistan's first boat" is already a hit, offering an alternative form of entertainment.
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Normally, Afghans come to spend their Fridays on the banks of the river, riding horses and picnicking. The arrival of "Afghanistan's first boat" is already a hit, offering an alternative form of entertainment.

Ivan Watson
Ivan Watson is currently based in Istanbul, Turkey. Following the 9-11 terrorist attacks, he has served as one of NPR's foreign "firemen," shuttling to and from hotspots around the Middle East and Central Asia.