This is our third trip to what some people call “the roof of the world,” the Wakhan Corridor.
This is a narrow strip of land that lies between Tajikistan and Pakistan, in the northeastern reaches of Afghanistan. It is a unique part of the world, and goes from the Hindu Kush mountain range to the Pamir Mountains; 220 kilometers long and ranging between 16 and 64 kilometers wide, this corridor has a history that goes back as far as the Silk Road, and even earlier.
We arrive by air in Tajikistan, and then set out by road to Khorogh on the Afghan border, Ishkashim on the Afghan side, Sarhad-e Broghil and finally the Wakhan Corridor. The route we take, walking an average of 12 hours a day, presents serious physical challenges, which really tests us. Perhaps most importantly though, this journey, which begins in Tajikistan, has the flavor of being a real passage through time. And the people we encounter en route to our destination are so warm, so memorable, and so close; it’s all very impressive.
After a very difficult four days of walking, we reach the region where the Pamir Kyrgyz people live, around Chaqmaqtin Lake and its surrounding areas, at an elevation of 4,000 meters above sea level. Our first impression is that we have arrived at some sort of land straight out of a fairy tale; a small village composed of some 10-15 tents. There were women in traditional outfits, tending to many yaks and their young. And children, lots of children, playing games between the tents.
Just as it was wonderful getting to know the Pamir Kyrgyz who moved to the village of Ulupamir near the city of Van at the start of the 1980s, we were also saddened to learn that their notable ethnic traditions and identities are threatened with extinction. This latest journey of ours has been documented in both a book and an exhibition, and has been an immense pleasure.