The Wakhan corridor is a narrow strip of land located in the Eastern Afghanistan, in the Wakhan district of Badakhshan province. Its length is 295 km and its width is from 15 to 57 km. It forms a corridor connecting Afghanistan with China and passing through the territory of Tajikistan.
The Wakhan corridor being in Afghanistan can be associated by tourists as a place where terrorism, drugs, Talibs and war chaos exist. But the above-mentioned phenomena are not represented at Wakhan as its residents never knew war. It is so perhaps because of the geographical conditions, but the Wakhan corridor was never touched by war and tourists should be aware of their absolute security there. Today this place is becoming popular among the lovers of alpinism, trekking and other kinds of active leisure thanks to its virgin beauty and remote location.
A little bit of history
In the XIX century a treaty between the Russian Empire and United Kingdom was concluded as the final move of the famous Great Game. As a result of the treaty, the Wakhan corridor ruled by independent Afghanistan became a buffer between Russian Central Asia and British India.
Much earlier this land was the most difficult part of the Great Silk Road that connected Europe, India, Central Asia and the Middle East. Only the bravest travelers could get there and Marco Polo was the first of them. He crossed Persia and Central Asia during his trip to the palace of the Chinese emperor. Marco Polo wrote that the tops of the mountains surrounding the Wakhan corridor were so high that even birds did not fly over them. And the frost was so strong that the fire changed its color and did not warm people up.
Another traveler who visited the Wakhan corridor in 1906, Orel Stein, noted that every year thousands of horses laden with different goods were moving toward China.
Climate of the Wakhan corridor
The climate of the Wakhan corridor is very rough, with long and cold winters. It is explained by the very high latitude – 1700 km. It is very cold in the morning and at night. The best time to visit the Wakhan corridor is the period from June to September. It is strongly advised to carry warm clothes as in the Wakhan corridor often blow very cold winds.
Wakhan – a great combination of many cultures
People inhabiting the area of Wakhan absorbed elements of many different cultures and religions. But at the same time they preserved the feeling of unity and harmony with the majestic mountains surrounding them.
Many legendary people took part in the history of Wakhan, among them: Alexander the Great with its militaries; Buddhists-Tibetans, who established huge monasteries there; Arabs, who brought Islam to these lands; Mongolian conquerors. All of them left their mark on the history and culture of Wakhan.
Population of the Wakhan corridor
The area of Wakhan is populated predominantly by the Pamir people (or the Pamirs). Pamirs are very different from Afghans. Here you will meet a more liberal society, women do not wear burqa, but the biggest difference is in the religion – the Afghans practice Sunni Islam, and the Pamirs practice Ismailism.
Ismailism is also a branch of Islam, but there are many differences with the main stream. In the villages of the Pamirs there are no mosques and there is no obligatory praying 5 times a day. The most important element of their religion is an internal connection with the God. The role of imam is given to the descendant of the prophet Mohammed, who is, according to Ismailits, the prince Aga Khan. Aga Khan is esteemed as a real God, he does very much for his people – he builds schools, hospitals and roads. One of the most important postulates of Aga-Khan is that the main reason of religious extremism is poverty. He thinks that it is possible to create a prosperous society with the poverty eradication.
A route through the Wakhan corridor
The first thing that will, certainly, impress the visitors of the Wakhan corridor is the endless mountains of the area. First of all they will see the Kaakha fortress located just above the shore of the river Pyanj. There is a path to the fortress, but tourists will need a special permit for free climbing, as an armed border service is located on the territory of Kaakha.
Further begins the Wakhan corridor, it lies along the Panj (or Pyanj) river. Tourists say that it is a beautiful place where the skyline blends with the ground. In the mountains you will see shepherds with sheep. They say that the valley of the river Pyanj is one of the most beautiful places of Pamir.
In the valley of a small river that flows into the Pyanj you will find Bibi-Fatima hot springs. The thermal water is very useful and gives energy to tired travelers.
The next attraction of the corridor is the Yachmun fortress. The Yachmun and Kaakha fortresses were built in the III century B.C. in order to protect the region and to keep control over the important trading routes from Pamir to India and Persia, which passed through the valley of the Pyanj river. Both fortresses played an important role for the local population. From the Yachmun fortress tourists can see the territories of 3 countries: Tajikistan (where the Yachmun fortress is located), Afghanistan (behind the blue Pyanj) and Pakistan (covered with white snow peaks). The height of those Pakistani mountains is over 7000 m.
Further, in the village of Yamgh you will find the house-museum of the Pamir prominent poet and philosopher Muboraki Wakhani. In the house of Muboraki tourists can plunge into the atmosphere of the XIX century and see ancient things of that period, as well as musical instruments.
Throughout the whole trip across the Wakhan corridor you can enjoy splendid views of local nature, quite remote from today’s civilization full of stress and hard work. Start your trip as soon as you can!
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