Nancy Hatch Dupree & Afghanistan

Friday, 15 September 2017

The amazing Nancy Hatch Dupree died, aged 89, on September 10. There were fine obituaries for her in The Economist and The New York Times and many other places. I never met her, but I certainly knew her most famous book very well indeed: An Historical Guide to Afghanistan was published in the 1960s. An enlarged and improved edition, printed in Japan, was shipped in to Kabul just as everything shut down in the late ’70s, but remarkably the copies, safely stored away, survived all the fighting and were unearthed and put back on sale post-Taliban. I already had a copy, but picked up a second one in Kabul when I visited Afghanistan in 2006. In 2013 I wrote about my visit to the Minaret of Jam in Afghanistan and the recent opening of her Afghanistan Centre at Kabul University.

▲ The Shah M Bookshop in Kabul where I bought a copy of Nancy Hatch Dupree’s Afghanistan guide.

▲ Buddha images at the Maijishan Caves

I’ve always said the greatest regret of my travelling life has been that I went to Afghanistan in 1972 and did not travel north of Kabul to Bamiyan to see the great Buddha statues. When I did get there in 2006 it was too late, the Taliban had destroyed them in 2001. I reiterated that disappointment when I visited the Yungang Caves in China’s Shanxi Province in 2013. This year I’ve fortunate to see more big Buddha images at Maijishan in China’s Gansu Province, when my MGB Silk Road trip passed that way.