Blog 25 – Summer in Afghanistan – first impressions

A calm oasis

Why didn’t you call before crossing the border? I would have told you not to come right now. You don’t have anything arranged? Give me someone local!” That´s what we heard on phone from a guy from the Aga Khan Foundation – one of the three contacts that we have had in Afghanistan and that we had unsuccessfully tried to reach from Tajikistan in the last three days. At that moment we had been already unpacking our stuff from a taxi to the police station in Iskhasim where we were taken right after crossing the border. On the way we noticed nervous glances at the bazaar. Sometimes a local with a wooden stick on his shoulder passed by. We were told that today (although noon), all the authorities and guest houses are closed. “Some local problem” we got an all-saying explanation. “Well, it’s quite live here,” we said to each other looking at soldiers with guns quickly taking their positions on the fortifications of the station.

Whatever the problem is, nobody wants tourists to be involved in it, so after some conjecture and many calls were brought to one guest house on the outskirts of town. Gradually we learned that the “local problem” was sort of dispute between Sunni and Shia parts of the city. The religious leader of the Shiites in Wakhan corridor, government representatives from Faizabad (the nearest large town) and capital city of Kabul came to fix it. The next day, while we were arranging for the necessary permits to enter the Wakhan corridor, this area seemed to be what we read about it – an island of peace in this troubled country.

Wakhan corridor and its people

Wakhan corridor is not just a freakish-looking noodle sticking to the northeast of Afghanistan between Tajikistan and Pakistan. In the nineteenth century it was also a scene of colonial power games between Russia and Great Britain. It’s also one of the few places in Afghanistan where the last 30 years, there is a ceasefire. This is largely due to the population as well. The western part of the Wakhan valley is inhabited by the Ismaili. This is a subgroup of Shiite Muslims who live scattered around the world and thanks to the financial support organized by their leader Aga Khan, could enjoy civilizational achievements such as accessible education or health care. In the eastern part Wakhan valley, where there is no road and you have to get there on the back of a horse, there lives in great isolation a small group of Kyrgyz shepherds.

However, we would not get the whole way to them. We headed to the beginning of Wakhan valley to the Qazi Deh side-valley, which begins in a village of the same name. A strong wind often blows through the Wakhan valley. The locals call it bad-e Wakhan. Hidden in a nice garden of the guest house of Sayeed – one of the leaders of the local community – we repacked our stuff before trekking into the base camp.

This is not Europe, it is Afghanistan

With the processing of permits and organization of porters Afiat Khan helped us – one of the Afghanis who first climbed Noshaq  (7460 meters) the highest mountain in Afghanistan. Noshaq is located in the valley, where we headed. While packing our bags we learned how much a kilogram of opium cost and that earlier it was not a problem to ride across the river in winter to transport it to Tajikistan. In recent years, some people in northeastern Afghanistan (to the west from here) returned to poppy cultivation and opium trade. Sometimes in order to be able to send their children to better schools in Kabul. “You know, this not Europe, this is Afghanistan,” Afiat said several times with a big smile on his face.

As we were falling asleep bad-e Wakhan steadily rustled through the trees in the valley. Just two days in this country and already so many impressions and images in our heads. The living conditions are quite simple. Most villagers live without electricity, cash money and an idea about life outside the valley. How different compared to the world across the River Panj on the Tajik side. At least we will have a lot to think about in the mountains


Carinthia, Microsoft, Hanibal, G3, Pieps, Boatpark, Singing Rock, Direct Alpine, Goal Zero, Travellunch / MX3 Aventure, Esbit, Husky, CK Alpy


Incredibly colorful country


Wahkan valley


A lot of courious looks


A few days later we found out that the keys from our car got into the pocket of this taxi driver during the ride


„I didn’t expect it would be so lively here“


Summer discounts in Iskhasim


On the bazaar in Iskhasim


„Six copies of your passport please“
„we dont have so many, do you have a copy machine here?“
„Sorry, no“


On the bazaar in Iskhasim


On the bazaar in Iskhasim


On the bazaar in Iskhasim


Qazi Deh village


Qazi Deh village


Qazi Deh village


View of the Wakhan valley


Qazi Deh village


Qazi Deh village


Qazi Deh village


Qazi Deh village


Basic life but still happy eyes


Qazi Deh village


Qazi Deh village


Minishop in Qazi Deh offers only a few items such as onion, chewing gums or buiscuts. Anyway, nobody is really shopping. There in is not much cash money in the village


View of the Wakhan valley