The Places in Between by Rory Stewart


At the same time I was listening to A Thousand Splendid Suns, I was reading Rory Stewart’s account of his walk across Afghanistan weeks after the fall of the Taliban from Herat , where Miriam was born, to Kabul, where she was taken as a 15-year old. 

This is the best kind of travel book,combining knowledge of the history of the location and description of the rigors of the travel.  He made a nearly impossible journey across the mountainous region during winter and encountered many dangers in a nearly chaotic situation.  He chose the mountainous route because the Taliban still controlled some areas in the usual southern route.  His route was similar to that taken by Babur, a conqueror of Afghanistan and India in the 16th century and the book is filled with Babur’s experiences in the same places Stewart was walking.

He was taken in and fed in villages everywhere he walked, sometimes with the kindness to visitors called for in the Koran, sometimes with great reluctance by villagers who had so little.  He writes about the range of his experiences with the Hazara, one of the four main ethnic groups in Afghanistan (Tajik, Aimaq, Hazara, and Pashtun).   In Hosseini’s book The Kite Runner, one character is Hazara, despised by the Pashtun in Kabul. 

He recounts experiences in Jam, a very isolated spot, where he saw a tall tower, called the Minaret of Jam.  He discovered that the villagers were digging up artifacts in the area to sell in Herat and concluded they were destroying the ancient city called Turquoise Mountain, a lost city of the 12th century Ghorid empire.  According to the book cover, Stewart is now living in Kabul and has established the Turquoise Mountain Foundation.

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