“I travelled to Afghanistan on assignment for National Geographic in the spring of 2000 following the route of Marco Polo who travelled through its northern provinces on his way to China in the 13th century. Visiting the town of Taloqan, now under Taliban control, he describes the scene from a mountain vantage point. He wrote: “… you find an extensive plain, with great abundance of grass and trees, and copious springs of pure water running down the rocks and ravines”, its inhabitants “a people (who) worship Mohommet (Mohammed) and … have a peculiar language. They are gallant soldiers.”
This is a land of shepherds and warriors, even today. Will Afghanistan and its people ever hope to achieve the elusive dream of peace? In what has come to be known as the Forever War, this will mark over 40 years that the country has been subjected to armed conflict — either between Afghans and foreign powers like the Soviet Union, Great Britain and the U.S. or in bloody civil wars.
(Yet), despite the barrage of images of gun totting Taliban fighters in Kabul and desperate crowds frantically clamouring for a way out of Afghanistan since the government fell, there exists another country far removed from the chaos of the capital. With people and places little changed from those Marco Polo described in his travel diaries in the thirteenth century, there are fertile plains where horses graze, snow-capped jagged mountains and star and desolate deserts. These sharp contrasts make Afghanistan a land of striking physical and cultural beauty.”
~ Michael Yamashita, Natgeo photographer, author, keynote speaker