This is a gem of a book, pleasing to behold and delicious to browse. It’s strewn with visual and verbal nuggets as distinctive as the famous lapis lazuli and as diverse as the humanity which have surely been the two main causes of Afghanistan’s pain over the three millennia of its history. That publishing a guidebook for Western tourists to the land of the Taliban could be thought a profitable venture by hard-headed capitalists should by itself come as a pleasant surprise. George W will be pleased; and President Hamid Karzai has contributed a foreword.
It’s a very big gem, too – as big as the Koh-i-Noor, or ‘Mountain of Light’, which nowadays adorns the Imperial State Crown. (Captured in India during the eighteenth century by a Persian shah, the Koh-i-Noor was supposed only to be passing through Afghanistan but never quite made it out