National Geographic : 2013 Feb
92 national geographic • February 2013 the khan dreams of a car. But for now, with no car and no road, the re- ality is a yak. The khan is holding one by a rope strung through its nose. Other yaks are standing by. It’s moving day; everything the khan owns needs to be tied to the back of a yak. This in- cludes a dozen teapots, a cast-iron stove, a car battery, two solar panels, a yurt, and 43 blankets. His younger brother and a few others are helping. The yaks buck and kick and snort; loading them is as much wrestling as packing. Moving is what nomads do. For the Kyrgyz of Afghanistan, it’s from two to four times a year, depending on the weather and the availability of grass for the animals. They call their homeland Bam-e Dunya, which means “roof of the world.” This might sound poetic and beautiful—it is Never mind that there isn’t a road. His father, the previous khan, spent his life lobbying for a road. The new khan does the same. A road, he ar- gues, would permit doctors, and their medicines, to easily reach them. Then maybe all the dying would stop. Teachers too could get to them. Also traders. There could be vegetables. And then his people—the Kyrgyz nomads of remote Afghani- stan—might have a legitimate chance to thrive. A road is the khan’s work. A car is his dream. “What kind of car?” I ask. “Whatever car you want to give me,” he says. The ends of his mustache curl around a smile.