“…gone are the days when the name of Kabul conjured up images of gardens planted and tended by the great Bābur, founder of the Mughal Empire in India. The Bagh-i-Wafa (“Garden of Fidelity”) included a pool surrounded by orange and pomegranate trees and a clover meadow–of which Bābur was extremely proud…”
–The Silk Roads: A New History of the World, Peter Frankopan, p. xvi
The moment it came off the tree, Nadim sank hungry fingers through the pomegranate’s skin to reach the pips. His nails hit solid rubies.
The pomegranate thumped to the soil. Nadim listened past his roaring heartbeat for the emperor’s guards. How could this be? Was the emperor so rich he did not eat? Nadim tore open an orange, and golden silk unraveled in triangles so thin he could see bushes through them.
Nadim could not take rubies or silk. Surely no one would buy such fine things from such a poor and dirty man. Surely in the winter he would die if he wore silk.
Desperate, he turned to the clover beds. Clover was not bad for feeding the goat, at least. But at his touch, the leaves burst into clouds of emerald butterflies. The petals became miniscule pink hummingbirds and buzzed off into the jewel-trees and silk-trees. The ground lay bare.
In disbelief, Nadim stared at his empty hands. Riches littered the emperor’s garden, and yet there was not a single thing to eat.