The Wakhan Corridor is that long, curious sliver of land on the northeast corner of Afghanistan. Its borders were set in 1895 as a buffer between the British and Russian Empires. This 200 mile by 10 mile strand separated Tajikistan (then a part of Russia) from Pakistan (then a part of Britain).
The Wakhan is a sparsely populated and remote region. 7000 people of Wakhi and Kyrghyz extraction live in some 40 villages, some of which consist of just one or two huts. The valley is shaped by the Wakhan and Panj rivers. The Pamirs dominate the north. The Hindu Kush looms in the south. Most of the Corridor is 10,000 feet plus in elevation.
The Wakhi speak a Persian dialect and are of the Ismaeli sect of Islam. They grow potatoes, wheat, barley, and lentils. Their Kyrghyz neighbors in turn raise yak, sheep, and goat. A symbiotic relationship exists between the two peoples. It is a poor and forgotten place. One in three infants die before he or she reaches 365 days of age.
The Corridor constituted a treacherous section of the famed Silk Road. If you believe Marco Polo's tale, then you have to believe that he walked this stretch 1200 years ago. Because it is bordered by Tajikistan, China, Kashmir, and Pakistan, it is not exactly the most commerce- or tourist-friendly place on earth. Only a handful of outsiders reach this place every year.
Sounds like a great place to hide, doesn't it?
Exquisite B&W photos courtesy Teru Kuwayama.