There aren’t many blank spots left on the map that run half a degree of latitude wide, even in Afghanistan. Nimroz Province, a Tennessee-sized chunk of prairie and desert that’s home to 149,000 Afghans, is one such area.
I set out with a photographer friend, John Murphy, to satisfy a craving to see the massive centuries-old ruins of Shahr-i-Gholghola, a city that must once have covered the same area as Manhattan. An American traveling from Kandahar to Nimroz had seen them from his car and e-mailed me his photos; they bore out the description of Nancy Hatch Dupree, the dean of Afghan archaeology, as “the greatest assemblage of 15th-century A.D. architecture anywhere in the Middle East.” Abandoned around 1407 to the ravages of summer sandstorms and winter flash flooding from the nearby Helmand River, the site has not been explored since a Smithsonian Institution expedition left in 1976. (more…)