In the town of Tashkurgan, home of the Tajik people in Xinjiang, bordering Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Pakistan, I met this boy in the old mountainous Pamir region. It is said that this town marks the middle way between Europe and China. The faces I saw there were unforgettable.
Starting around 200 BC, a network of trade routs was created linking China, India, other parts of Asia, Afro Asia and Europe. Its name comes from the German (Seidenstrasse), the silk road saw the trade of silk, tea, spices, glassware, jewelry, gold, silver, perfumes, textiles, precious stones as well as the dreaded bubonic plague.
It felt very moving to drive along a part of this historic road, and to stand and imagine the thousand upon thousands of travelers who spent hundreds of days and nights in their adventures on that very same ground. Our planet’s history is so rich with tales of what has been, and the stories are there to be discovered, marveled at and pondered at. It is after all our story and its events the stepping stones that led us to where we all stand today.
One hour from Kashgar, along the old silk road and just before the start of the Karakoram highway, lies a small village called “Opal”. In the middle of the hustle of the village market, the busy bread stalls, the people milling around and moving goods from place to place, I saw this pretty woman with the amber eyes. She stood there in the sunlight near a row of trees, alone, maybe waiting for someone. I approached, we did not speak, I looked at her, she looked back, I flet a silent agreement from her to photograph her, so I did. After clicking several frames I had the strangest feeling that with some people, as you photograph them, they are photographing you back. Her eyes were steady and piercing, blinking occasionally, just like a camera would. Weren’t cameras fashioned after human eyes in the first place?
As children run wild, they carry with them the giggling essences of the land, rivers and mountains…
Tashkurgan, a gem of a city, surrounded by golden grasslands, snow capped Pamir mountains, streams, expansive skies and filled with friendly Tajik people who welcome a traveler with bright smiles as they always have when their city was a main stop on the old silk road. Drive 2 hours and you will be in Pakistan, Tashkurgan (literally stone fortress) was once the capital of the Sarikol Kingdom. Now Tashkurgan is part of China’s Xinjiang province and access to it is determined by permits and a military checkpoint about tow hours away on the Karakorum highway. I was very lucky to spend time with its children, to walk its streets and to breathe its fresh air.
Today was a very long drive along the Karakoram highway, all the way to Tashkorgan a mountain village near the Pakistani border, 3600 meters above sea level. The landscape along the way was breathtaking, with the occasional but sparse settlements of tiny Tajik and Kyrgyz villages along the way.
photo taken: shepherd in the grasslands of Tashkorgan near the Pakistani border