Afghanistan Travel Guide
The news is not good over at the Intercontinental Hotel Kabul in Afghanistan. According to a report by CNN, Taliban suicide bombers managed to break through the heavily-guarded hotel's two levels of security checkpoints, and now the situation seems to be worsening.
We've been following the tweets of Maria Abi-Habib, a Wall Street Journal reporter who has been on-site since early this afternoon. Unfortunately, the 42-year-old hotel (which we learned hasn't been associated with the actual Intercontinental family for many years) is very popular with politicians and travelers alike—which is undoubtedly why it was targeted in the first place. See below for screen grabs of @abihabib's tweets.
Afghanistan is trying to forge ahead, five stars at a time. The first five star hotel recently opened in November 2005 in Kabul, and despite being reportedly beautiful, it's also very quiet. (Notice the jam-packed parking lot in the pic).
So it's not too surprising that the tourists and business travelers are slow to arrive at the new Serena Hotel, considering the country's political situation is still so volatile.
The country's first five-star hotel has been built by the Aga Khan, leader of the Ismaeli Muslim minority, businessman and philanthropist. It has 300 staff and rooms costing up to £680 per night, equivalent to the annual income of 12 Afghans.
Guess it's still going to be a while until most Afghans can stay there.... That said, there are many people who are working for international companies (or engaging in dubious money-making schemes), thus new hotels are breaking ground such as The Hyatt, another five star hotel, and other commercial building such as malls are popping up amidst the unpaved streets and open sewers.
Located in the center of town, the Serena is also a hop-skip-and-jump away from all the Embassies and Ministries. The building dates back to 1945, and has (thankfully) been completely refurbished, now offering 177 rooms, 2 restaurants, meeting and health facilities.
The New York Post reports that travel to Afghanistan has been increasing, with many tourists visiting from Korea, Japan and Europe. New tourism deputy minister Nasrullah Stanikzai claims that, since he took office in March, licenses have been granted for 150 new hotels, restaurants and guesthouses, and for 48 tour operators. Coincidentally (or, perhaps not), Aga Khan will soon be opening a new luxury hotel in central Kabul called the Kabul Serena Hotel, where rooms will start at $250 a night.
· Express Check-In [NY Post]