Day 94 (1): Unexpected lunch
Ishkashim Travel Blog› entry 131 of 260 › view all entries
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.