New tourist guest house opens in Afghan Panjshir province


PANJSHIR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Panjshir province, Afghanistan, is known for its scenic terrain, fast-flowing river, permissive environment and mujahedeen resistance of both the Soviets and Taliban.

The provincial government is hoping to add tourism to the list of things people think about when pondering Panjshir.

In an April 26, ribbon-cutting ceremony, Bazarak Municipality Mayor Abdul Khabir, with help from Panjshir Deputy Gov. Abdul Rahman Kabiri; U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Curtis Velasquez, Provincial Reconstruction Team Panjshir commander; James DeHart, U.S. State Department and PRT Panjshir director; Elizabeth Smithwick, U.S. Agency for International Development field officer at PRT Panjshir; officially opened the newest guest house in the Panjshir province.

The guest house, which was funded by USAID, belongs to the municipality. Khabir’s office is responsible for the day-to-day operations.

“It’s for national and international guests of Panjshir,” said Khabir through an interpreter. “The municipality will use the revenue to run the guest house.”

The modern facility boasts 15 rooms with flat screen televisions. Eleven of the rooms are single beds, and four have two beds. The guest house also has a conference room.

“Having a guest house close to the provincial center provides a huge benefit by increasing provincial center capacity,” said Velasquez, an Abilene, Kan., native. “People can come here to conduct business rather than staying somewhere far away or not coming at all. It enhances the ability to entertain government guests, thus increasing capacity of the provincial government.”

The room price is a sliding scale from $20 to $100, depending on the room and reason for the stay. Government officials on government business will be at the lower end of the scale, while tourists can expect to pay a price near the higher end.

“This is the first municipality-run guest house in the country, and it’s an opportunity to expand the services of the municipality by having available an attractive, clean and pleasant place to stay in the center of the provincial capital,” said Smithwick, a Texas native. “It means individuals will no longer be tied to a limited schedule, but will be able to stay for extended periods of time. This means they will be able to meet with a greater number of government officials to help meet the needs of the Panjshir people.”

Smithwick said the Panjshir Municipality Guest House, which was funded through the Afghan Municipality Strengthening Program, will be open to everyone, but is primarily intended for government business.

“We finally have a place for outside guests to stay that’s closer than the Astana Guest House,” said Khabir. It will certainly help the province, which is one of the most visited places for tourists in Afghanistan, added Khabir.

Following the ribbon cutting, special guests received a tour of the facility and met in the conference room for tea and snacks.

The guest house is now open for business. Tourists hoping to travel to Afghanistan should book rooms soon as space is limited, and Khabir expects to be very busy.