Afghan Journal

Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics

Huge natural stone arch new Afghan treasure

photo courtesy of  Ayub Alavi/Wildlife Conservation Society

photo courtesy of Ayub Alavi/Wildlife Conservation Society

Afghanistan surprises most first-time visitors (including many on military transport planes) with stunning natural beauty — there’s little room in column inches taken up with war to describe snow-topped mountains, lush valleys, spring fields scattered with crocus and other pleasures of living here.

The country’s dazzling blue Band-e Amir lakes are almost unique geologically (not the way they are formed, but in their size), there are endangered animals like snow leopards roaming the country’s more remote corners, and now naturalists have discovered one of the world’s largest natural stone arches.

The Hazarchishman arch, which sits over 3,000 metres above sea level, has a span of almost 65 metres, making it the 12th largest known in the world. It has nudged Utah’s Outlaw Arch down one place in the list.

There are also man-made treasures left, despite centuries of war and destruction, and a more recent spasm of archeological looting fueled by the huge market for antiquities, whether legal or not.