National Geographic : 1968 Sep
were banked with piles of thorn and brush, fuel for the coming winter. Nad-i -Ali, too, was a kuchi settlement-but aperma nent one. "Each family got a house, up to 15 acres of land, a pair of oxen, simple tools, and cash for seeds," Sultan Mohammed ex plained. "But it's a hard life, even for an experienced farmer -w orse for the inexperienced nomad. Hundreds of families gave up after a year or two." In one of the new villages I met Hadji Wakil of the Durrani tribe, one of the first settlers. We took the customary tea in the shade of an arbor of grape vines, then walked the fields with Hadji Wakil. Nearby his son plowed the small plot with a team of oxen. "For 17 years I've fought this soil," the old man said, crum bling an ash-brown clod be tween his fingers. "It takes work as well as water. But we've won. In three more years I'll have the deed to this land. Some thing to pass on to my sons." Most of Afghanistan's 21/2 million kuchis are still on the move. Every autumn they strike their summer camps and thread down through the passes into the warmer plains. Often we had passed their caravans on the narrow mountain roads. Late one afternoon north of Kandahar we approached a kuchi encampment-six black tents huddled against the chill evening wind. A pair of snarling mastiffs, ears and tails clipped, stopped me a hundred paces from the camp. A tall, lean no mad strode out to meet us. "Staray ma-shi!" We shook Golden finger thrusting skyward, the 2 2 7-foot Minaret of Jam pierces the dawn in the mountains of Ghor. Its caretaker, Mohammed Azzam, peers from midway up the lavishly decorated shaft. It leans at about half the angle of Pisa's tower. 328 KODACHROME© N.G.S .