Afghans and Tajiks meet every Saturday to trade in the market of Sultan Ishkashim, and for a short period of time life is all normal once again. Sultan Ishkashim, Afghanistan. 01/08/2009
These are archive photos from my trip in Central Asia a year and a half ago.
On Saturdays, life becomes as it used to be, simple and innocent, as Tajiks and Afghans meet each others in Sultan Ishkashim for the market day.
They thus cross the Wakham river once a week to trade and discuss the way it has been done for centuries along the Silk Road. The Wakham Valley, going from Khorog, Tajikistan, toward South-East, is cornered between the Hindu Kusch and the Pamirs Mountains; and Marco Polo himself is said to have made a stop there on his Silk Road travels.
In this remote corner of Afghanistan the war between the US-led NATO coalition and the Taliban is seen as a distant problem. People can therefore go along with their life without the constant fear that traumatize the rest of the Afghan population.
However, the Silk Road trade has changed in content, if not in its form. Opium and heroin have replaced spices and silk, and Tajikistan is doomed as it lies at the strategic crossroads between Afghanistan and Europe.
There are therefore recurrent clashes on the border, where smugglers exchange fire with Tajik poorly equipped border guard. No later than yesterday two Tajik soldiers are reported to have been killed by drug smugglers.
To witness such a positive cross-border exchange once a week is thus something immensely rewarding, something like a hint of humanity in one of the most hostile region on earth.