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How to get to the Wakhan Corridor of Afghanistan? AM00000010000003530 7, 2008

Posted by Mыsofer in wakhan, Wakhan Afganistan.
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The  safest way to get to the Afghan Wakhan Corridor is to go via Tajikistan and the crossing at Ishkashim.  You will need a GBAO as well as your Tajik visa.  There is no need to pay thousands of £s/$s to (probably a Western based) agency to do a Wakhan of Afghanistan tour when you can do the entire thing easily yourself.

Wakhan ladyWakhan lady

1) First of all you need to pick up an Afghanistan visa. This is easy enough to do in Dushanbe and usually takes about 3 days. For a UK national it cost myself $60 for the visa and other than which type I wanted there were no questions asked. Be aware that the embassy has moved – it is not where The Central Asia LP guide says it is. You need a Letter of Invitation (LOI) for Afghanistan but we found that the Afghan embassy in Dushanbe already had a set letter that they provided and that required a short trip to a local shop to photocopy and submit with the form. This avoided the hassle/cost of obtaining an LOI.  I also saw them filling out vehicle permits at the Embassy so if you have your own vehicle it might be worth a try.

*Mountain Unity can provide an LOI if you need one (for a fee).

2) For arranging travel to the Wakhan Corridor you do need to get in contact with Mountain Unity. The person running this is David James – a UK national who is living in Ishkashim on the Afghan side with his family. Email him through the website and they will be able to arrange a Wakhan Permit for you. It is not an easy process for them to go through and there is not much point in them doing it if you only have a day or so for the Corridor. The Permit is currently $50.

By emailing Mountain Unity and telling them how many days you have they can provide you with an itinerary and the costs. Their partner Wakhan Tourism helps organize the trip for you by getting the permits, etc, but it is done through David at Mountain Unity.

WPvideo 1.10

Unfortunately, the driver and vehicle hire – which is a necessity for getting into the corridor is expensive.  Aga Khan Foundation are promoting tourism there (in partnership with Mountain Unity and Wakhan Tourism) and they can provide the driver/cars to get into the Corridor.   The rates at the moment appear to be considerably more than they would be Tajikistan.  Which is unfortunate.  Obviously the more people in the car the cheaper it is and you don’t need a car for many days – only 2 or 3. The price quoted August 2009 was $180 per day but this may change. Mountain Unity will provide a break down of all costs, but this is the big one. Further to that there is the cost for guides and homestays ($25pp/night), etc – which if going for 3 weeks will obviously add up. All of which can be arranged via the emails with David.

Sustainable / Eco Tourism – Mountain Unity is doing a very good job of trying to increase tourism with the aim of supporting local people. They have set up a basic network of guesthouses around Iskhashim that are reasonably priced and comfortable. However it appears there is some outside competition starting to come in that is likely to lead to the tourism money leaving the area. For that reason alone I would strongly recommend only staying at a Mountain Unity organized guesthouse.

Ayanbegs Guest house (Mountain Unity)Ayanbegs Guest house (Mountain Unity)

Border stuff
Mountain Unity can send a car to pick you up from the border (around $20-25).

The Tajik border opens at 0800-12.00 and then opens again at 14.00.
The Afghan border is closed on Sunday.

Opening times 09:00 – 11:30, 14:00 – 16:00.

It would be wise to get a taxi/cycle from Ishkashim (Tajikistan) although it isn’t far – about 3km out of town, simply because the border point is situated in desert – it is excruciatingly hot if waiting there for the border to open, and will not be a pleasant walk from Ishkashim!

There is the open border market on every other Saturday where the two sides mix at an island in the river.

Taj Afghan Market at IshkashimTaj Afghan Market at Ishkashim

To get to Iskhashim just follow the advice on the Taxi page on this website.

MORE INFORMATION:
The best two websites to reference for sorting yourself out for the Wakhan and probably all you need  (other than this one of course):

*Mountain Unity website
*Jildu website

Random: If you like reading and you are interested in the Wakhan Corridor, I recommend buying the 3 Cups of Tea book. If you go to the Wakhan you can easily see some of Greg Mortenson’s schools and it is nice knowing the background. (link below)

Also, Mountain Unity will we setting up a nursery in the Wakhan this year and are currently fundraising for good quality toys – that are going to be brought over from the UK. Please throw your support behind this chance for the Wakhan to have a nursery, and one with with decent toys. The Amazon wishlist is here and with free P&P selected it is very easy. Thanks.

Source: http://tajiktourism.com/wakhan-corridor-afghanistan/

Life: A mason and a mountaineer AM00000090000005531 7, 2008

Posted by Mыsofer in wakhan, Wakhan Afganistan.
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A group of ordinary Afghans from a remote area of that war-torn nation set out with a dream — to scale the country’s tallest peak in the name of peace. 
Aunohita Mojumdar tracks their epic journey all the way to the top

It all started over a cup of tea, as things do in Afghanistan. Malang, a cook in the Aga Khan office had a simple question: “Why not go up Noshaq?” And there it was. A straightforward question. The question ‘why not’ probably had many logical and sensible answers: because Afghanistan was a country in conflict; because Afghans had no tradition of mountaineering in the last three decades; because there was no money to back such an impossible dream. In the end, the answer to the question lay in the question itself: “Why not?” And four ordinary Afghans from the Wakhi community in the remote Wakhan corridor set off to climb their country’s highest mountain, Noshaq. On July 19, they became the first Afghan team to reach the top, and Noshaq now proudly flies the Afghan colours, planted there by Malang the cook and Amruddin, a Wakhi farmer.

Read at http://www.khaleejtimes.com

The majestic mountains of north east Afghanistan PM00000010000003928 7, 2008

Posted by Mыsofer in wakhan, Wakhan Afganistan.
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Welcome, Mountain Unity is a non-profit organisation which promotes mountain tourism
in NE Afghanistan.

The majestic mountains of north east Afghanistan, have kept the local people safe from
invasion since the days before Alexander the Great. However life in this remote province is
especially hard for its inhabitants. Maternal mortality rates are one of the highest in the
world, and many children die before the age of five due to the extreme poverty. By
co-ordinating and publicising mountain tourism, Mountain Unity aims to provide
sustainable livelihoods for the inhabitants.

 

 Tourism in the Afghan Hindu Kush Visit the Wakhan Corridor 070917 Wakhan/2

video clips….: http://www.youtube.com/user/mountunity

More detail at source: http://www.mountainunity.org/

Woman’s handicrafts Center Opens in the Wakhan AM00000090000003731 7, 2008

Posted by Mыsofer in wakhan, Wakhan Afganistan.
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To help develop small and medium-sized businesses in the Afghanistan’s remote Badakhshan Province, USAID supported 25 female entrepreneurs in establishing a Women’s Business Centre in the Wakhan Corridor.  Once part of the famous the Silk Road, this mountainous and relatively secure region is becoming a popular destination for foreign tourists interested in Afghanistan’s history.  This summer the women saw their first sales of local products to the Wakhan’s new tourists.  The project hopes that these women will be able to produce a greater range of products targeted at this rapidly growing ‘high end’ market.

Source: http://afghanistan.usaid.gov/en/Article.406.aspx

The Wakhan Corridor AM000000110000004031 7, 2008

Posted by Mыsofer in wakhan, Wakhan Afganistan.
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Ghoz Khan, Wakhan Valley, Badakhshan, Afghanistan

If you look at a map of Afghanistan, you will see an awkward tongue in the far northeastern part of the country. That is the Wakhan Corridor and Pamir. The Wakhan Corridor is inhabited by the minority Wakhi Tajik ethnic group, followers of the Ismaili sect of Islam, while in Pamir there are the Kyrgyz, who are Sunni Muslims. The formation of the boundary of the Wakhan Corridor was very artificial. Russia and Britain, who was fighting in the ‘Great Game’ in Central Asia, used the Wakhan Corridor of present day Afghanistan as the buffer of their emporiums. And now, the Wakhan valley is sandwiched between high mountains of Tajikistan and Pakistan. Walking along the Wakhan Corridor, which is only 15 km wide, indeed will give you a feeling that the giant mountains on the left and right (Tajikistan and Pakistan) will fall on you.

The Wakhi people are separated in 4 countries: Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, and Tajikistan. It’s man who made the line, dividing the God’s world, and causing families to be separated.

In this album I am trying to introduce the life of the Wakhi in Afghanistan. They are an Ismaili minority who are waiting of freedom and prosperity. Tajikistan has been an idol for them. On the Afghan side, there is no electricity, shop, bazaar, telephone network, road, and vehicle. There are only muddy houses with lonely animals and people full of hope. Across the Amu Darya River, poor Tajikistan is proudly showing their power lines, busy highway with passing cars and trucks, and beautiful wooden houses. Even the cows’ songs and laugh of the Tajikistan children can be heard from Afghanistan
Source: http://www.avgustin.net/gallery.php?id=50

Wakhan Afghanistan and Tajikistan PM00000020000004030 7, 2008

Posted by Mыsofer in wakhan.
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The Wakhan from Yamchun (www.pamir.org)

The Wakhan is a narrow panhandle of valleys and high mountains that stretches eastward from the province of Badakhshan in northeastern Afghanistan following the head waters of the Amu Daria to its sources in the Pamir mountains. It borders Tajikistan to the north, Pakistan to the south, and China to the east. Between Eshkashem and the easternmost point of Afghanistan, the distance is approximately 350 km. The corridor is widest (65 km) in the middle, where it includes the Nicholas Range; it is narrowest along its western third, where the width is 13-25 km except for a breadth of 30 km at the headwaters of the north-flowing Ishtragh River. At the western entrance, the corridor is 18 km wide.

The Wakhan was established as an imperial buffer zone between the Russian and British empires in the late 19th century. The Wakhan and Pamir are an area of unique interest both from the point of view of its natural environment and biodiversity as well as its human population of settled Wakhi farmers and transhumance herders, the yurt-dwelling Kirghiz.
The main Wakhan is comprised of a narrow strip of riverine terrace along the left bank of the Panj River, flanked to the south by the easternmost spurs of the Hindu Kush mountains and crossed by many stony fans and flood washes issuing from these ranges. It is about 180 km long from east to west (Eshkashem to Sarhad-e-Boroghil, including 110 km for the Wakhan Corridor, Eshkashem to Qala-e-Panj) and seldom more than about 20 km broad between the Tajikistan and Pakistan frontiers in the Corridor.

The mountains, which form an almost impassable barrier along the southern frontier, rise to snow-covered peaks and ridges of 6 000 meters and above, with glaciers and deep, steep, rocky valleys, which occasionally give access through to Chitral on the Pakistan side. These valleys are used as summer grazing for livestock belonging to the villagers living along the line of the river, and are also home to mountain ungulates such as ibex and urial and their main predators, the snow leopard and wolf. Red fox, lynx, various small wildcats, and martens also occur here as well as their prey, the cape hare, marmots, pikas and a variety of small rodents voles and mice.

This area is inhabited by Wakhi-speaking farmers cultivating heat, barley, pulses, and a little millet and potatoes. Barley becomes the main-indeed the sole-crop in the middle-altitude aylaq (summer camp) between 3 400 and 3 600 m. Wheat is the dominant cereal crop up to 3 400 m. with barley above this altitude.

The Wakhan River flows through this stretch of highly glaciated valley in an ever-changing bed characterized by vast and spectacular expanses of gravel flats and stony washes. The mountains on either side rise for the most part rather precipitously until reaching Sarhad, which lies at the end of a broad basin where the river enters from the Little Pamir out of a series of deep gorges. The broad Boroghil Valley enters here from the south, leading up and over the Boroghil Pass (3 798 m) to Chitral. This was the pass that haunted the late 19th century Imperial Britons as being the one through which they feared the Imperial Russian Cossacks, equipped with cavalry and artillery, would come on their way to invade India. It is the only pass in this area where this would have been possible and which was a compelling strategic consideration for British control of Chitral.

More detail at source: http://www.juldu.com/Pamir/index_pamir.html

The Wakhan Corridor AM000000100000001030 7, 2008

Posted by Mыsofer in wakhan, Wakhan Afganistan, Wakhan Tajikistan.
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The Wakhan Corridor is a small strip of land belonging to Afghanistan that connects it with China separating Pakistan and Tajikistan, On the left the valley of the Pjandsch river marks the border between Afghanistan and Tajikistan, on the right the crest of the mountains the border to Pakistan. At the horizon the Muztagh Ata and Kongur Shan peaks in the Kunlun Mountains can be seen.

Source: http://earth.imagico.de/view.php?site=wakhan

Tajikistan + Afghanistan: Expedition: Wakhan Corridor (National Geographic Adventure)

The Wakhan Corridor is one of the wildest landscapes on the planet:
A 200-mile-long (322-kilometer-long) valley splitting the Pamir Mountains and the Hindu Kush, where few Westerners have traveled since Marco Polo passed through in the 13th century. “It’s a true adventure in the old-fashioned, swashbuckling sense of the word,” says Geographic Expeditions’ Afghanistan and Silk Road regional director, Kristina Tuohey, who notes that the Wakhan has been largely immune to the region’s political and military upheavals. Beginning in Tajikistan’s capital, Dushanbe, Geo Ex’s groups of 16 people or fewer move south on foot to the Tajik-Afghan border, continuing east through the snowy Pamirs to Sarhad-e Broghil. In the ten days of hiking that follow, you’ll trace Marco Polo’s route through a wildlife-rich valley inhabited by Siberian ibex, snow leopards, gray wolves, Marco Polo sheep, and yaks. You’ll also likely encounter members of the tiny, hospitable Afghan Kyrgyz nomad community—a rapidly dwindling ancient culture that survives long winters by trading with the Wakhi ethnic minority on the Pakistan side of the Pamir, crossing back and forth by horse caravan over rippling mountain passes. The primary focus of the hike, however, is the sweeping vivid-blue skies, snow-covered slopes, pastoral ranges, and the once-in-a-lifetime chance to be one of the handful of outsiders to traverse this lonely stretch. The turnaround is Afghanistan’s eastern outpost, at the mountainous border with China.

xik_wakhi-copy-copy
Source: http://www.nationalgeographic.com/adventure/adventure-travel/asia/tajikistan-afghanistan.html

Experiences in the Pamir Mountains AM000000100000002230 7, 2008

Posted by Mыsofer in pamir, wakhan, Wakhan Tajikistan.
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The ruins of the 12th-century Yamchun Fort against a beautiful backdrop of the Pamir Mountains.  Another kilometer up the road, you'll find the delightful Bibi Fatima hot springs.  The first dose of hot water we'd had in days.  Taken in Tajikistan's Wakhan Valley.Read more about our adventures in the Pamirs.  A Beautiful Defense

12th Century Yamchun Fort, Wakhan Tajikistan

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Our visit to the Pamir Mountains of Tajikistan introduced us to some the most spectacular scenery we’ve taken in on our journey thus far. Other mountainous areas, hyped in guidebooks and on travel websites, have only paled in comparison. The Pamir region not only stands out for the severity and beauty of its landscape, but it shines most of all for the colorful, hospitable and fascinating Pamiri people who live there.

The extremity of the landscape comes at a price, however. After wearing all of our heavier clothes to stay warm, eating nothing but potatoes, bread and tea, and being without bathing water for five days, we were ready for some features of civilization. Our journey in the Pamirs fortunately knew an end.

For the local Pamiri people, however, the austerity and scarcity of their homeland are not components of an adventure holiday. For them, this is real life, day in and day out.

People and cultures are influenced by their environment. However, the way in which the various people encased in this relatively tiny sub-region of Central Asia closely matched the diversity of their landscape – from its desolate high mountain deserts to its fertile river valleys – was especially fascinating.

More detail at source: http://www.uncorneredmarket.com/2008/01/peak-experiences-in-the-pamir-mountains/

The Wakhi Art, Wakhan Tajikistan AM00000090000004930 7, 2008

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Wakhi House, Wakhan Tajikistan                    Photo: Ghulam Ahmed
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Wakhi The inhabitants of Wakhan , Boroghil and Gujal are the Wakhi tribe who belong to an ancient Iranian stock, They have Moingolide features and it is believed they are the master speakers of Ghalcha language of the past.. A thin wedge of Afghan territory known as the “Wakhan corridor” separates Tajikistan and Pakistan which is the home land of these nomads. In Chitral and Ishkuman, Wakhan is known as Wokh and the people as Wakhi, in Hunza the name of Wakhan is Gojal and the people of Wakhan as Gojali. In the past the name of Hunza was little Gojal, while Wakhan was known as big Gojal. 

The Wakhi live as a semi-pastoral society, which depends on agriculture and cattle raising. The Wakhi huts are made of mud and due to climate conditions their huts have no veranda or corridor. All the rooms in the house are interconnected and have one outlet at a convinent place well protected from the wind. There is a small outlet for smoke and light. Cooking is done in the living room , while grain storage is in a separate room connected to it. If in the neighbourhood of a settlement a suitable base area of stone is located then a centeral storages place is constructed having separate areas for different families. The people are peace loving modest and friendly. Crimes do not exist in this society and the people have a peaceful existence. Due to the harsh weather and long winters people are addicted to opium. 

Trans border relations of the frontier people are very common in areas where borders are mere unnatural barriers. When the Persians and Tartars subjucated the areas north of the Hindukush in the 12th century the southern valleys of the Hindukush gained a distinct identy under different names as Bolor, Dardistan, Tibet Gujal, Kashkar etc who were divided by the chains of mountains however the Ghalcha and Dard people living on the northern and southern side of the Hindukush have been close to each other despite the natural hurdle of the mountain chains. 

Trade caravans and pilgrims from eastern Turkistan used to cross over the Kurambar Boroghil and Darwaza passes into Chitral and this caravan route served as a permanent link between these regions. Many people from Chitral crossed into Wakhan for permanent settlement. The Wakhi herdsmen usually came with their flocks to the Boroghil for summer camps. Wakhi horsemen used to visit for Polo and Buzkashi as far south as Razdan field in Torikho valley. 

The Wakhi art, craft and architecture occupy a distinct place in the neighbouring area. There are certain festivities which mark particular occasions and vary from valley to valley. The first seed sowing is a time of festivity where a bowl of grain part of it roasted is handed to the head of the family who scatters half of it around the house. Then the house head first scrambles as if starting for his plough then rushes back onto the roof top to scatter the remaining bowl through the ventilation sky hole in the roof into the house. 

He then goes to the fields to trace circular line twice around it and scatters seeds, his entry into the house is resisted and after much persuasion the women open the doors. Next day early in the morning before daylight he bring an ass into the house and there is much joking and fun made after which the ass is sprinkled with flour and driven out. The Wakhi are fond of music Daf open drum and flute and Rabab are popularly played. Male members are responsible for farming, weaving woolen clothes . While women look after the house and cattle.

Source: http://www.world66.com/asia/centralasia/tajikistan/people
http://passusilk.multiply.com/photos

THE PAMIRI HOUSE PM00000020000002331 7, 2008

Posted by Mыsofer in wakhan.
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One of the most important repositories of the culture of the Pamirs is the traditional Pamiri house, locally known as ‘Chid’. It embodies elements of ancient Aryan philosophy – including Zoroastrianism – many of which have since been assimilated into Pamiri Ismaili tradition. What to the untrained eye looks like a very basic – even primitive – structure, is, for the people who live in it, rich in religious and philosophical meaning. The symbolism of specific structural features of the Pamiri house goes back over two and a half thousand years.

The house itself is the symbol of the universe and also the place of private prayer and worship for Pamiri Ismailis – the Ismailis have as yet no mosques in Gorno-Badakhshan. The layout of the house is as described below, although some houses have a mirror-image of what is described.

The Pamiri house is normally built of stones and plaster, with a flat roof on which hay, apricots, mulberries or dung for fuel can be dried.

More detail at source:

http://www.pamirs.org/pamiri%20house.htm