The Pentagon often cites Afghanistan’s vast untapped mineral wealth when asked how, exactly, the country’s government will fund its security forces when the coalition leaves. The reality, of course, is that it will be several decades before any of those underground resources ever see the light. But there is another wealth to be found above ground: Afghanistan’s incredible natural wonders. I’ve written in the past about the Wakhan Valley, Bamiyan and the gloriously blue, stepped lakes of Band-i-amir; now I can add one more feature to the growing list of why Afghanistan will be, peace permitting, one of the world’s foremost adventure destinations.
According to a new press release from US AID, researchers Christopher Shank and Ayub Alavi of the Wildlife Conservation Society have discovered a massive natural stone arch in Afghanistan’s central highlands. The geological colossus spans more than 200 feet across its base, making it the 12th largest in the world and pushing Utah’s Outlaw Arch in Dinosaur National Monument back a peg. Hazarchishma Natural Arch is also more than 3,000 meters above sea level, making it one of the highest natural bridges in the world.
“It’s one of the most spectacular discoveries ever made in this region,” said Joe Walston, Director of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Asia Program, according to the release. “The arch is emblematic of the natural marvels that still await discovery in Afghanistan.”
Indeed. And the great thing about natural wonders is that they are a resource that rarely comes with a curse.
photo credit: Ayub Alavi