National Geographic : 1968 Jan
"Buz kashi literally means 'goat drag,"' Mr. Entezam explained. "But now they use a calf-a dead one, of course." He pointed to two circles chalked on the field. "Those are the goals, one for each team. The object is to snatch the calf from the ground, race around those posts at the end of the field, and drop the calf back here in the proper circle." At the referee's whistle, the headless car cass was dropped in the middle of the milling and snorting group of horses. One man from the Red team broke through, reached down swiftly, grabbed a leg and lifted the 120 pound carcass with one hand. He raced around the quarter-mile course with both teams in pursuit. A Green rider grabbed an other leg of the carcass. Red and Green rode across the field, lashing each other. The Red swerved his horse, broke Green's hold, and slid the calf into the circle. For two hours the buz kashi continued (page 46 and cover photograph). Horses grew sudsy with sweat, the men bloody. The rewards for such torture must be great, I remarked. "Not really," said Mr. Entezam. "Prestige is the reward. Families will spend half their savings to buy a good buz kashi horse. These men play to win, just for the honor." Riverside rug cleaners lift a day's work from a hot spring to dry at Rai-ancient Rhagae-near Teheran. Alexander, pursuing Da rius to Rhagae, learned that his quarry had fled through the Cas pian Gates into eastern Persia. Macedonian cavalry finally over took the fugitive king-only to find him dying in a mule cart, stabbed to death by his own generals. Now Alexander became King of Kings. But Bessus, instigator of the assas sination, lived on to plague him as pretender to the Persian throne. Craftsman out of the past, an Afghan cobbler shapes shoes with upturned toes; each custom-made baboosh fits either foot. His stall borders the village street of Istalif. Near here Alexander may have camped during his exhausting campaigns across the crumpled ter rain of Afghanistan (pages 50-51). When Alexander crossed the Oxus in search of Bessus, he had his men make rafts of tents stuffed with straw. On these the army crossed the river in five days. We took considerably longer. No foreigners may cross the Amu Darya, the border between Afghanistan and the Soviet Union. The only way we could get to the other side was to fly from Kabul to Tashkent, capital of the Uzbek S.S.R. Fortress Falls to "Flying Soldiers" The Tashkent director of Intourist, the Soviet tourist agency, questioned our itiner ary, which included Samarkand and Lenin abad, both places important to Alexander. "Samarkand is on the tourist list," he said. "But why do you want to go to Leninabad?" "Alexander founded a city near there," I replied. "He called it Alexandria Eschate Alexandria the Farthest." "Leninabad," he replied firmly, "is not on the tourist list." So, with an Intourist guide and a driver, we set off by hired car for the 200-mile trip to Samarkand. West of Leninabad, we picked up Alexander's trail again. Soon after the Macedonians crossed the Oxus, Bessus had been captured without a struggle, betrayed by his own lieutenants.