National Geographic : 1993 Oct
UP TO THEIR ANKLES in mud, villagers near Qandaharclear accumu lated siltfrom a karez, or underground irrigationchannel. Farmersimpatientfor water to flow can turnto the country's most lucrative crop, the opium poppy, which thrives on little moisture. No water at all is needed by gardenerHesamuddin, who pots plasticflowers (above) in the shells of Soviet bombs before placing them along the streets of Kayan. prison official as I walk to my car. He is clean shaven and dressed in a KhAD uniform. "I would be grateful for a ride back to Kabul for myself and an inmate who has just been released." He nods at a younger man with a bushy beard and flowing cotton tribal clothes, who is clutching his few possessions wrapped in apattu, a flimsy blanket with fringes at each end. "He is my nephew. I am taking him home with me," the official says. As we drive, the young man stares hard at the first grass he has seen in 11 years. All across the country Afghans are going home. From the rolling wheat fields of the northern steppes to the imposing deserts of the south, from the mountain gorges ofthe east to the endless plains of the west, refugees are returning to places, outside the capital, that are tranquil for the first time in 14 years. They are coming back to pick up the pieces.