Day 94 (1): Unexpected lunch

Ishkashim Travel Blog

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The stunning road along the Wakhan valley

Thanks to the people I met here and/or travelled with: Tim & Wim (Belgium), Ismail & Ruslan (Tajikistan)

We set out the next morning again and drove to the largest city along the Wakhan valley, Ishkashim. This is the spot where in 2002 the first border crossing between the two countries was opened since the Afghan war, reuniting families who had been forcibly separated for nearly three decades.

It was a pity we were not here on Saturday. Every Saturday there is a cross-border market, making it possible to enter Afghan territory without a visa. It would have been cool to be able to say we'd been to Afghanistan (even if it is only a few hundred metres inland) but not cool enough to wait two days for.

Walking around in Ishkashim


Since we had driven a lot further than initially planned yesterday, we had arrived in Ishkashim much earlier than expected and it made no sense to spend the night here as we had originally planned. Instead we decided to once again drive on and just see where we'd end up.

As we were about to head off we were approached by a couple of guys. They were wearing fairly trendy Western clothes (fake Armani shirts and D&G pants) and both had earphones in their ear, listening to music from their modern mobile phones with MP3 capabilities.

They asked if we wanted to come their house and have some tea. Always eager to meet some locals we happily accepted the offer. It was a bit strange though, two guys, obviously very hip and trendy, inviting a couple of strangers over to have tea at their mum's place.
Meeting Ismail and Ruslan
Guess that despite the Western influence the people here still hold their traditional values. I do hope they never lose this attitude.
Ruslan and Ismail were lovely guys. Ismail was studying in Dushanbe, while Ruslan was currently serving in the army. Both had come home for the summer holidays.

It was also nice to see a traditional Pamiri house from the inside. These 'huneuni chid', as they are called in the local language are single story adobe buildings which look simple from the outside, but inside they are in fact quite expansive. The building style is full of symbolism. The main area where guests are received (we would say living room, but local people actually only use this central area when they have guests) is constructed with five pillars, representing the five main prophets, the five pillars of Islam, or even five deities of Zoroastrianism.
Skylight
In the sparse square room there were four elevated sides, three for seating of guests (though we were expected to sit on the side immediately right of the entrance, which is supposed to be the greatest honour one can receive.
Light comes through a skylight in the ceiling, which, again, was built using a lot of symbolism: four concentric squares representing the four elements, fire, water, earth and air; the thirteen beams in the ceiling representing the seven imams and six prophets of Ismailism.
None of this was actually the topic of conversation. We just chatted about our mutual lives and families, showing pictures and watching the three kittens which had just been borne a few weeks ago, who were actually living under the floorboards (exiting and entering via a tiny gap).

Their mother served us 'shir chai', the Tajik equivalent of Himalayan yak tea.
Young kitten and its mother at Ismail and Ruslan's house
It is a tea, brewed with goat's milk, salt and butter. I liked it better than the Yak stuff I had had in Mongolia. We were given freshly baked 'chaleb' (square, or European style bread) and dipping the bread in the tea actually made a very tasty and filling lunch.

After lunch we were given a quick tour around the house and the small patch of farmland the family owned. After this we said our goodbyes to Ismail, Ruslan and their family and we went on our way again.
This had been a very special experience for us. It is these type of meetings that make travelling in this region such a delight.

ik-ben-10eke says:
That is a beautiful house they live in, with a nice sunny yard, and I love the woodcarving details.
Posted on: Aug 18, 2010
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The stunning road along the Wakhan…
The stunning road along the Wakha…
Walking around in Ishkashim
Walking around in Ishkashim
Meeting Ismail and Ruslan
Meeting Ismail and Ruslan
Skylight
Skylight
Young kitten and its mother at Ism…
Young kitten and its mother at Is…
On the road to Ishkashim
On the road to Ishkashim
Stunning mountains on the Afghan s…
Stunning mountains on the Afghan …
Ladies taking their goats for a wa…
Ladies taking their goats for a w…
On the road to Ishkashim
On the road to Ishkashim
Your faithful reporter hard at wor…
Your faithful reporter hard at wo…
Entering Ishkashim
Entering Ishkashim
Chasing a lada
Chasing a lada
Traditional house of Ismail and Ru…
Traditional house of Ismail and R…
Ismail and Ruslans mother in fron…
Ismail and Ruslan's mother in fro…
The road to Ishkashim
The road to Ishkashim
Ishkashim
photo by: Deats