1. Fact: There is zero chance of getting hit in the face with a selfie stick in Mazar-i-Sharif
"When you visit Afghanistan, you aren’t walking through Rome and eating pizza with hundreds of other tourists and taking selfies at the Colosseum," says Jonny Blair. Blair, a 36-year-old Northern Ireland native. Blair, who chronicles his travels on his blog, ventured into Afghanistan on foot, crossing the border alone from neighboring Uzbekistan. He took what’s known as the "Friendship Bridge," the span that the Soviets famously used to pull their remaining troops out of the country in 1989 following a decade-long losing battle against the US-backed mujahideen fighters. "It was eerie walking on my own across that bridge," he says. On the other side, he met the guide he'd booked prior to his travels and traveled to Mazar-i-Sharif, a city in the north.
Mazar-i-Sharif isn’t a hotbed of Taliban activity, but the militant group has waged attacks there, and its members can, and do, move undetected around the city. "There's definitely a real tension in the air," Blair says. To blend in, he dressed in a salwar kameez -- a baggy, flowing garment worn by many men in Afghanistan usually coupled with a vest and some form of headwear. He spent three days in the city, taking in sites like the famous Blue Mosque, a Buddhist monastery, and the local markets, and dining on meals of lamb, rice, and mantu, a popular dish made of meat-stuffed, steamed dumplings topped with chaka: a thin, watery yogurt sauce. "It was just a different world to me," says the man who has traveled to more than 100 countries. "I'd never seen anything like it."