"With 'Cashmere in Mongolia' and 'Furs in Russia' under our belt, a story shot anywhere in the world seemed within the range of the possible, provided that the idea was a valid one. What to do next in the series that Allen Hurlburt, the art director at LOOK Magazine, dubbed 'Maroon's Mind Bogglers'? I had long been intrigued by the ancient Silk Route, from China to the Mediterranean, and thought it would be a photographic blockbuster as a story, or even a book. Why not add modern silk fashions to the landscape along Marco Polo's ancient route? Photographing in China was out of the question in 1968, but Afghanistan was an important segment of the route, and seemed to me to offer plenty of exotic locations. The editors agreed, the budget was approved, and I found myself in the unenviable position of now having to pull the thing off. I had never been to Afghanistan, but figured that it couldn't be any less hospitable than Outer Mongolia had been.
I flew out a week ahead of the rest of the team so I could make arrangements and scout locations. Before leaving I had read James Michener's Caravan and done a little research into the history of the country at my local library, and as a result I did not set out with any great sense of optimism. In fact, I was sure that this would be the last boggler, and quite possibly the last of Maroon. The Afghans, I had read, had a penchant for blinding those they distrusted, and, due to their tumultuous history and forbidding and isolating topography, they distrusted almost everyone. I could not imagine what they would make of western models, western fashions, or a western photographer.
My first scouting trip was to the Bamiyan Valley, in the central part of the country. The floor of this valley is almost 10,000 feet above sea level; the peaks of the Hindu Kush, a range sometimes called 'the roof of the world', tower above the valley to heights of more than 25,000 feet. The name Hindu Kush means 'Hindu Killer', reputedly because of the many Indian slaves who perished trying to cross the mountains. It was an important location, since it was in this valley that all the silk routes converged. Here the Chinese offered their silks to traders in caravans from India, Syria, and Turkey. So many languages were spoken in the process that the site became known as the 'Valley of Noise'."