By Megan Harlan
Updated March 02, 2001 at 05:00 AM EST

English travel writer Elliot fell in love with Afghanistan at age 19 when he accompanied a band of mujahideen fighting Soviet invaders. This extraordinary account follows his return trip a decade later, in the mid-’90s, just as the Taleban was overthrowing the country’s secular government. Traveling by horseback, bus, and foot from bomb-besieged Kabul to lapis mines, glacial mountains, Silk Route cities, and beyond, Elliot alternates harrowing reportage with flights of fancy about the romantic Afghanistan of Kipling and Marco Polo, tracking the mysterious impulses of adventurous travel with unfailing insight. A-