National Geographic : 1968 Sep
On the third day we neared Kandahar, Afghanistan's second largest city. "I'd prefer to go around it," the old khan confided, "but the young men look forward to a day in town." There would be silver filigree to buy for a prospective bride, some tea and sugar, a visit to the gunsmith's. We picked our way slowly through outlying fields and villages; from rooftops children jeered as we passed. The old khan staked his horse in a stubble field near the city. But the first tents were barely up when an angry farmer burst into our midst. "Your unholy camels are stripping my pastures!" he shouted. Mohammed Naim smiled apologies and sent two young men to investigate. But the farmer would not hold his tongue. "Why can't you sons of devils stay in the desert where you belong?" I think at first the kuchis ad mired his pluck-he was outnumbered fifty to one-but he spat another curse. An angry tribesman grabbed him. I stiffened as guns were drawn. With arms raised the old khan quieted his men. Then quickly the farmer spread his long coat on the ground in the direction of Mecca. No one could deny it was proper time for afternoon prayer-and the farmer's sudden attack of piety spared him violence. The relationship between the nomad and the settled people in Afghanistan has always been strained. Historically they have needed each other, but now as the trucks and transis tor radios bring the goods and the news, vil lagers have less and less need of the kuchis. I went to say goodbye to the old khan.