National Geographic : 1968 Jan
Pashtoon, vice governor of the province. He sketched a route across the Dasht-i-Margo. "This wasn't always a desert," he told us. "When Alexander came through, it was prob ably one of the more fertile regions of Afghan istan. There were canals everywhere. Then came Genghis Khan, 15 centuries later. His Mongols ravaged the area, filled in the canals, massacred the population, and the sand took over. You'll see dozens of ruined cities along your way." Those ruined cities were our signposts across the Dasht-i-Margo. The first of them appeared about midafternoon, shimmering in the heat haze. From a distance the city looked intact, gates open as if to welcome a caravan. But as we approached, the grand walls be came a weather-seamed mass of mud bricks. We camped beside the walls, but in this profound stillness sleep would not come. Sleep can be elusive when you camp among the ghosts of Genghis Khan's victims. Mountains Block Pursuit of Bessus Reaching Afghanistan's Kabul Valley in December, Alexander found his pursuit of the usurper Bessus blocked by snow-mantled mountains higher than any he had ever seen. He decided to await spring before crossing the 11,650-foot Khawak Pass.