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Search for the Lost Treasure of Afghanistan

The Background

It is the greatest ‘lost treasure’ in history: a mountain of gold and jewels reputed to be worth in excess of $530 billion. Ask anyone in Central Asia about the legendary hoard and they will recount the facts:

In 1740 Nadir Shah of Persia swept through Afghanistan into India. After sacking its capital at Delhi, he plundered the fabulous treasuries of the Mughal emperors, and hauled the wealth of three hundred years westward, over the Hindu Kush, towards his kingdom of Persia. The treasure caravan was said to have been a 150 miles long, and to have contained the greatest accumulation of gold and gems in human history.

But during the journey back to Persia, Nadir Shah was murdered in his tent, by one of his young Afghan generals, Ahmad Shah. The young solider, whom was to become first king of modern Afghanistan, found himself in possession of the immense treasure: a million gold coins and sacks of jewels, as well as the sacred Peacock Throne (now in Iran), and the fabled Koh-i-noor diamond – which today can be found in the British Crown Jewels.

Ahmad Shah died an agonizing death soon after, succumbing to cancer of the face. Some say his death was the result of the curse of the Koh-i-noor. More certain is that Ahmad Shah managed to conceal the bulk of the treasure before his death. One popular account tells how he diverted a river near Qandahar and hid the hoard in a labyrinth of tunnels behind it.

For almost two and a half centuries, ordinary Afghans and their rulers have searched for the treasure of Ahmad Shah. A century ago, Amir Abdur-Rahman sent convicts to hunt in the dangerous tunnels commonly found in the region. Most of them perished. The British mounted their own quest for the treasure, as did the Russians during the 1980s. More recently, Al Qaeda’s henchmen have been thought to be looking. Some Afghans who are ever fond of conspiracy theories, will tell you that America invaded not to destroy the Taliban, but to get their own hands on the golden hoard of Ahmad Shah.

Tahir Shah’s family have lived in Afghanistan for more than a thousand years, as rulers, warriors, and mystics. Shah shares the same name as the first king, and a common ancestry. His father, Idries Shah, was Afghanistan’s most famous writer of modern times, and was preoccupied with the fabulous lost treasure. His own fascination for riddle led him to write a bestselling novel about the gold of Ahmad Shah.

Now Tahir Shah is taking up the gauntlet, and hoping to find the treasure himself. His recent experiences searching for King Solomon’s gold mines in Ethiopia, and the lost wealth of the Incas in Peru, will prove invaluable on what is sure to be a perilous journey across Afghanistan on the trail of the greatest treasure in history.

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