5. In the fall and spring, the nomadic tribes of Afghanistan begin their seasonal journeys along ancient trade routes. The caravan routes generally run between Tadjikistan and Uzbekistan in the north, and Iran and Pakistan in the south. Prior to the collapse of the U.S.S.R., Tadjikistan and Uzbekistan were part of southern Russia.

A caravan can include hundreds of camels and burros, and thousands of sheep. They are essentially extended families with younger children and older grandparents riding, while others walk. Family wealth is in the animals and in the trade goods they bargain for and carry with them through their journey.

Men and women of the caravans, known as Kuchis, are independent minded. Kuchi women, in particular, almost never wear burkhas. Kuchi women come into the bazaar in the communities they pass through with their faces uncovered. Often, they are brightly dressed, with lots of jangly jewelry. They come ready to hunker down and bargain for supplies face-to-face with local shopkeepers.

Shopkeepers in religious communities might frown on the idea of uncovered women coming openly into the bazaar, but they are practical men, after all, and Kuchis have money and things of value to trade.

The caravans are a constant source of irritation to whatever government happens to be sitting in power in the capitol at Kabul. Caravan families typically trade goods over international boundaries in Iran and Pakistan in the south, and the former Russian territories in the north.

Presumably, unless Kabul has invited them to participate in any relevant negotiations, the Kuchis give little, if any, thought, to international trade agreements, or to the tariffs which bind more formal commercial arrangements with these countries.