Zerky in Ghazni

November 29, 1967
Ghazni, Afghanistan

By the time nightfall overtook us, we had covered three-fourths the distance from Kandahar to Kabul and were having reservations about spending the night “camped wild” in such a wild, wild place. Throughout the day we have been passing nomads wandering along the road. They are a fierce and handsome people; women dressed in embroidered dresses, disdaining to cover their faces as we pass, their men in huge ragged white turbans and heavy baggy pantaloons, many of whom are carrying rifles left over from the nineteenth century. They are a people know little of modern states, governments or laws—their codes and loyalties are tribal—we are foreign intruders.

Afghanistan has a long history of violence going back at least as far as when Genghis Khan’s Mongol hordes ransacked the country with fierce tribesmen attacking tourists and foreign travelers, killing the men and raping the women, before carrying them off to be added to some tribal chieftain’s collection of sequestered wives.

Such were our thoughts as we made camp for the night just far enough off the road so as not to be stumbled over in the dark by a passing camel caravan. The following morning we were off on the next leg of our adventure. Kabul was but an hour away.

—Excerpted from Letters to Zerky


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