"Moving is what nomads do. For the Kyrgyz of Afghanistan, it’s from two to four times a year, depending on the weather and the availability of grass for the animals. They call their homeland Bam-e Dunya, which means “roof of the world.” This might sound poetic and beautiful—it is undeniably beautiful—but it’s also an environment at the very cusp of human survivability. Their land consists of two long, glacier-carved valleys, called pamirs, stashed deep within the great mountains of Central Asia. Much of it is above 14,000 feet. The wind is furious; crops are impossible to grow. The temperature can drop below freezing 340 days a year. Many Kyrgyz have never seen a tree." Welcome to life at the upper altitudes of the Wakhan Corridor
, above the tree line and on the roof of the world.
Some 1100 Kyrgyz nomads (related to the Kyrgyz in Kyrgyzstan
) live in this forbidding landscape (photo gallery)
, nominally governed by Afghanistan but in reality very little governed at all
(NYT 2010). The Wakhan Corridor
, the funny little strip of land jutting off the northeast corner of Afghanistan
, is among the most rugged inhabited territory in the world and once formed a part of the Silk Road (Marco Polo
probably passed this way). These nomads ranged over a wider area until the "Great Game
" and its great empires began closing borders and limiting movement; by 1950 the Kyrgyz nomads had become full-time residents of the harsh high altitudes of the Wakhan Corridor.
For more photos, maps, information, and even links to academic articles, check out this Guide to Trekking in Pamir
. "Documents, Books & Links" has some great PDFs to check out.
Previously on MetaFilter: More of the same photographer's work in the area