The Wakhan Valley – A Stone’s Throw from Afghanistan, Tajikistan, August 2018

My latest journey has taken a detour from the Pamir Highway into the Wakhan Valley region. Although I won’t bore you with too much geopolitical history, in the 1800s as the Soviet empire was pressing south and the  British were defending their own imperial interests in India the two powers came to an agreement. The line that was drawn on the map separating the surging empires was through the Wakhan Valley.

The road drops down steeply into the valley with the Pamir mountain range buttressing one side and the Hindu Kush with its snow capped pinnacles soaring towards the heavens on the opposite side. The Panj River (known in antiquity as the Oxus River) still divides key territory today as the northern bank of the river is in Tajikistan and a stone’s throw to the other bank lies Afghanistan. 

History has seen many explorers and traders travel through this Valley during passage toward the Indus or onward to Beijing – indeed Marco Polo is still spoken of here today.

Small villages dot the river banks and in midsummer the scenes are lush with tall poplar trees lining shaded lanes, fruit orchards bearing apples, apricots and mulberries and golden fields of wheat being harvested by scythe. The people of the Western Pamir and Wakhan Valley are noticeably different in appearance from the Asian facies I have left behind in Kyrgyzstan. They have narrow faces and pointed noses, sometimes even with blue or green eyes – the true Tajik people are long ago descendants of the Persians.

The Wakhan Valley has been a tangible slice of the old Silk Road I came to discover: there are numerous crumbling ruins to be explored along the Valley walls from 4000 year old prehistoric petroglyphs, 3rd century BC Buddhist stupas, to 3rd century AD fortresses reinforced over the millennia and now to modern day mosques.

Wakhan Valley, Tajikistan


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