Meet Afghanistan’s First Female Tour Guide!

Fatima is quietly making history.

Veiled woman working outdoors

(Fernando Jose V.Soares /

Sometimes, trailblazers are gentle and even camera shy as well as determined; think Malala Yousafzai. They quietly but no less amazingly go about their groundbreaking work. Fatima is one of them. With her surname kept under wraps to protect her privacy, an adventure travel company offering trips to some of the world’s most interesting and inaccessible places, decided to sing her praises for International Women’s Day.

Fatima is the first female travel guide in a country challenged by low literacy rates, few employment opportunities for women and a below par women’s rights record. And yet, this former shepherdess has joined the team at travel company Untamed borders, a boutique agency adept at leading its small groups of intrepid travelers off the beaten path.

Amazingly, it was only in 2020, amid the added pressures of COVID-19, that Fatima led her first group of their tourists in Herat. The city served as an important center of intellectual and artistic life in the Islamic world. It lies on the ancient trade routes of the Middle East, Central and South Asia. Today it’s a regional hub in western Afghanistan, not far from the borders with Iran and Turkmenistan.

Fatima is one of seven siblings, most of whom have not had the opportunity to carve their own paths. Two of her sisters were married off in their mid-teens, but she decided that she wanted to work, not “babysit a husband.” This alone is unique in a country where the UN reveals that just 19 percent of women are employed outside the home, reports CNN.

Fatima is also the only one of her sisters and brothers to be educated. This is her merit too. With no schooling available to girls where she was raised, she convinced her parents to let her take lessons with the income she was able to raise from sheep herding.

More recently, Fatima practiced English by listening to BBC radio which she could tune in to when high enough in the hills! And it is this passion for English that led her to her new calling which now enjoys the support of her father as well as her mother!

Work in tourism was not a life-long dream for Fatima, so how did she make the connection? It was her interest in reaching out to people globally in a quest to show a different side to her country, one that wasn’t linked to conflict, that started it all.  

She joined Facebook history groups, and showcased places in Afghanistan that foreigners may not know about. So social media is what led this young woman to talk to travelers, start guiding, and to eventually connect with Untamed boarders. Its staff value the personal insight into her life as an Afghan woman she offers guests, as well as her guiding.

Not surprisingly, this is a company with principles, as its mission testifies: “Our aim is to add positive benefit to the areas we visit. We ensure that, whenever possible, the money we spend goes directly to the people of that region by staying in locally run hotels and using local drivers and supplies... Small scale tourism might not change the world but every path starts with a single step.”

“I thought Afghanistan was not a safe place for a woman to be a tour guide,” explains Fatima, “but I realized that I have to be the one to create this safe place for other women.” reports Untamed borders.

Fatima has plans for a brighter future for other next gen Afghanis as well has herself! Her tour guide work has boosted her extended family’s meagre income, and helped more of them enter education. She has started studying journalism at Herat University. This big-hearted woman also teaches English to girls in a refugee school.

“I am the first female tour guide in Afghanistan,” Fatima explains, “but I do not want to be the last!”

Join the 2021 International Women’s Day Challenge
How Women in Afghanistan Are Reshaping the Media Landscape
50 Famous Firsts in American Women's History