Balkh, Northern Afghanistan – 2002
The Northern Alliance, backed by American firepower, quickly drove the Taliban from Afghanistan in 2001, and 2002 was probably the best year for tomb raiding. I met Sher Mohammad, the local Mujihaddin commander, in an antique shop in Mazar-i-Sharif. He lived in a small village next to some bronze-aged graveyards just outside the walls of Balkh. We hit it off after I recited some Sufi poetry in Afghan Dari; poetry written about a local saint who is buried in Balkh. So he invited me back to their village for lunch and to look at some of the rare pieces that they had recently dug up.
In Afghanistan it is usually not a good idea to get into a car with a bunch of heavily armed Afghans whom you have just met, but this time I made an exception, and I was glad I did.