Picture of the Week—Afghanistan’s First National Park

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Afghanistan got its first national park this week—Band-e-Amir, which will protect a series of six turquoise lakes separated by natural travertine dams. The area is in the eastern part of the country, near the Bamiyan Valley where the Taliban destroyed the 1,500-year-old Buddha statues. Band-e-Amir had once been a popular spot for tourists, but tourism almost entirely stopped from 1979 to 2001 because of war. But now thousands of Afghans, religious pilgrims and foreigners living and working in the country visit the region. War has taken a toll, though; visitors are warned to not wander off paths due to land mines. And much of the wildlife has been lost—hunting killed off the snow leopards, for example, by the 1980s. However, there are still ibex, urial (a type of sheep), wolves, foxes and the Afghan snow finch, which is believed to be the only bird found exclusively in the country.