May 24, 2021

The clay ruins of a thousand-year-old royal city in southern Afghanistan have become home to hundreds of displaced people who have fled Taliban clashes.

Once the play places of fabulously wealthy Sultans, the displaced children and grandparents struggle to grind out a living amid the crumbling ruins that run alongside the Helmand River.

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Qala-e-Kohna spreads over 10 kilometres and was the winter residence of the Ghaznavid and Ghurid sultans, who ruled the region between the 10th and 13th centuries.

“There is no place in the Islamic world where we have something like it – a site as coherent, elaborate, and despite everything still relatively well preserved,” said Philippe Marquis, the director of the French Archaeological Delegation in Afghanistan (DAFA).

“It is important to preserve it because we are sure that it will teach us a lot about this period.”

Southern Afghanistan has seen renewed fighting as talks between the Afghan government and Taliban leaders have stalled and the United States prepares to withdraw the last of its troops from the country by September.

Many of the residents are from police families who cannot afford to live elsewhere and have no access to electricity or running water.

“It is a place for ghosts, not humans,” said Khudai Nazar, 54.

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