So Afghanistan may not be the safest place on Earth… but flying into Kabul is like living in one of Antoine de St. Exupery’s dreams. The landscape is so beautiful and mysterious, and the mountains are like living beings; ancient creatures from the formation of the Earth. The desert is vast and brown- every imaginable shade of brown. An occasional ridge of low mountain surges out of the desert like the backfin of a great fish, and the distant Hindu Kush rise and fall like smoky blue and white waves. But the brown and caramel and tan and beige spreads out like a great blanket the earth pulls over itself to keep warm in winter.
About 120 kilometers from Kabul, the beige smoothness of the desert is suddenly interrupted by jagged mountains; the tallest capped with bright snow, the majority of the others bursting out of the sand with rough hewn rocks and foreboding dark stone. The mountains lurch up from beneath the sand, shoving, jostling each other out of the way, as if trying to free themselves from the endless desert. Winding roads snake through the sharp valley crevices, and even from 29,000 feet in the air, one can see that these inaccessible paths make for perilous journeys. The endless bumpy vastness between Kabul and anywhere else boggles the mind; that the Taliban, let alone any other overland invaders, could ever make it into the city is incredible.
As we fly over denser and denser lines of mountains, each ridge successively higher than the last, I don more and more layers of clothing and covering. Kabul is enshrouded by a protection of mountains and desert; I am enshrouded by jacket, arm socks, leggings under my long skirt, hijab, sunglasses, and the ubiquitous Afghan scowl. Mountains give way to plateau, plateau gives way to a cloud of reddish brown dust; the cloud gives way to Kabul.
Welcome home, traveler.