Show features Afghanistan in better times

Posted: Tuesday, December 11, 2001

Dick Marshall saw Afghanistan without guns, land mines or Taliban militia.

At 7:30 Thursday night, Marshall will present slides and talk about his month-long, 800-mile trip through Afghanistan in 1976.

"This is Afghanistan as it was," he said. "Looking at the history, this was one of Afghanistan's high points. They were coming into the 20th century and Kabul was quite a city."

Marshall is coming to Juneau from Seattle to offer the presentation as a benefit for the Southeast Alaska Land Trust. His daughter, Deborah Marshall, of Juneau is the SEAL Trust director.

Marshall and his wife Chrissie spent a month driving across northern Afghanistan in International Travelalls, large four-wheel drive station wagons. They made the trip with eight Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan at that time, Theodore Eliot Jr.

"My wife grew up with his wife and we knew them well," he said. "I was fascinated with this country and this unusual opportunity to travel."

The trip included stops in Jalalabad, Kunduz and Bamiyan, where Marshall photographed two enormous, centuriesold carvings of Buddha.

"They were carved right out of the face of the rock, they were amazing," Marshall said. "We spent a whole day with these statues back when they were OK."

In a much-publicized demonstration in March, the Taliban used antiaircraft guns to destroy the monuments. Internationally, historians and archaeologists decried the act as cultural vandalism - one statue, 114 feet high, was carved about 250 A.D., the other, 170 feet high, was carved about 650 A.D.

Marshall said the trip took them to Kunduz, which saw quite a bit of military action in recent months.

"It was a bustling town," he said. "I have pictures of the bazaar and the people. That and other sites to the northeast of that, clear up to the northeast corner of Afghanistan, to Faizabad."

Afghanistan was relatively peaceful at the time, he said.

"There was nothing threatening," Marshall said. "We never even saw a gun."

He said the Afghan people were friendly and hospitable to the visitors.

"There are certain things you don't do, which we didn't do, like take pictures of women," he said. "You didn't see them, they were covered up then and have been for a long time. They were mainly kept inside."

The Marshalls took about 500 slides and when they returned they put together a show for friends and family. The slides have been packed away for the past two decades. A few months ago, when war broke out, he revisited the photographs and put together a new show, which he's presented in Seattle in recent weeks.

"I completely reworked the program," he said. "I kept a journal of the trip, and now that's been a great help to me to remember everything."

The Marshalls' hour-long program begins at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at McPhetres Hall at Fourth and Gold streets downtown. Admission is $5. Volunteer Joyce Levine said Marshall's presentation is the first of a series of monthly slide shows to benefit SEAL Trust.

The trust helps landowners establish conservation easements, which are legally binding documents, to protect property from future development.

Riley Woodford can be reached at

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