Afghanistan in 1969 was a very different place from the terrorist-infested war-torn country it is today.
Fascinating images from Frenchman Francois Pommery, taken during visits there in 1969 and 1974, reveal a nation of mesmerising vistas and welcoming, friendly people, happy to talk to him and have their photographs taken.
Mr Pommery hitchhiked all the way from France to Afghanistan in 1969 to the rarely visited region of Nuristan, using a travel bursary he was given while studying in Nevers.
Two women in veils approach a horse and cart in Hérat – Afghanistan’s third-largest city
A young boy pictured in Herat in 1974. The atmosphere on the sun-drenched street is relaxed and friendly
A couple in the village of Waigal, in the Want District of Nuristan Province, in 1969
A man and a woman in Waigal in 1969. Pommery said that the people he met were happy to pose for photographs
Mr Pommery hitchhiked all the way from France to Afghanistan in 1969, using a travel bursary given to him as a student
The people of Nuristan (pictured) live at heights of up to 6,000 feet in wooden huts
‘In search of adventures, I decided to go there. I left France in July 1969 by hitch hiking. I had to walk for the last part of the trip as some valleys were only accessible by foot.’
The people of Nuristan are said to be descended from Alexander the Great and sometimes have blond hair and blue eyes. They live in wooden huts at heights of up to 2,000 metres.
A local in Nuristan rests in the sun. The inaccessibility of the region didn’t put Mr Pommery off
Mr Pommery said: ‘Friends had gone to Afghanistan in 1965 and mentioned a beautiful region, the Nuristan (pictured is a local girl from the region), where they had been bounced back as you need special permission to get there. In search of adventures, I decided to go there’
A glass-blower at work in the city of Herat. Mr Pommery said he was treated well where ever he went
A repair workshop on a dusty road in Bamiyan. The scene is an idyllic one, with fresh fruit for sale and lush trees lining the route
Houses in Kabul march up a dusty mountain. Mr Pommery revealed that he was welcomed on his first visit by a village chief in Nuristan who put him up in a house they reserved for travellers
But the inaccessibility of their homes didn’t put Mr Pommery off.
He said: ‘Nuristan was described as an inhospitable mountainous region, a risky place to go, but I didn’t find that at all.
‘The people were very welcoming. After a three-day walk I arrived in the village of Waigal with another Frenchman I had met on my way.
‘The village chief welcomed us and installed us in a place reserved for people travelling. We struggled to understand each other and had to draw what we wanted to say on our note books.’
The contrast between old and new modes of transport was stark
A street in Kabul that looks homely and quaint, with home wares being sold from the pavement and cyclists pootling along the road
Mr Pommery discovered a land of dramatic desert mountains and tranquil lakes
On his second visit Mr Pommery went to Bamiyan to admire the Buddhas sculpted in the cliffs
The tallest Buddha in Bamiyan was 170 feet. The statues were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001
This fascinating picture was taken by Mr Pommery from the head of one of the now-destroyed Buddhas
A horse, covered in red balls, delves into a nosebag by the side of a road for a feed
The incredible Buddha statues in Bamiyan, viewed from a distance. The irrigated farmland contrasts hugely with the dusty rocks that surround it
A lake in Band-e Amir National Park glistens in the evening sun
The stunning Band-e Amir National Park – Afghanistan’s first and a landscape that’s home to six eye-catching lakes
The turmoil of modern Afghanistan is far removed from the peaceful scenes that Mr Pommery encountered
Mr Pommery returned to the country in 1974 with his wife and friends, as tourists, but this time he upgraded his mode of transport from walking and hitch hiking to a Land Rover.
He said: ‘We stayed one month. Nothing had changed apart from the fact that the king had been thrown out by the prime minister at that time, Maoud.
‘This time we went to Bamyan to admire the Buddhas sculpted in the cliffs. The tallest was 170 feet.’
Mr Pommery stressed that he was always treated very well. He said: ‘People called us the French doctors and asked us to treat injuries for which we could only apply ointments that we had in our bags. And they loved posing for photographs.’
Mr Pommery said: ‘People called us the French doctors and asked us to treat injuries for which we could only apply ointments that we had in our bags’
The language barrier meant that Mr Pommery was forced to communicate by drawing in his notebook
A striking image of a young boy wearing a cap and a man, relaxing by a stone wall on the route to Bamiyan
A Kabul bus pulls over at a petrol station, along with a jumble of trucks and cars
A brightly painted Afghan truck in 1974 with a jet plane motif
A dried up riverbed snakes through Kabul, with locals using the bridge to hang rugs from
Adventurer: Mr Pommery himself, exploring a village in Nuristan in 1969
Mr Pommery’s mode of transport for his return trip to Afghanistan in 1974
Some roads in Afghanistan are long and lonely – and run through barren landscapes with little respite from the heat