So, on friday I was posting on the facebook group and twitter urging people to turn on BBC2 (UK TV channel) to watch a rather good documentary that had just started. If you missed it then don’t worry, as you can watch it online (links at bottom of post).
The documentary features British TV presenter Kate Humble spending time living with nomadic shepherds in the Wakhan corridor in eastern Afghanistan. If you look at a map showing Afghanistan, there is a part of a country that sticks out like a finger at the eastern side – this is the Wakhan corridor. Geographically and culturally, it is relatively separate from the rest of Afghanistan – it was added to the country in the 19th century to ensure that the Russian empire (now Tajikistan) and the British empire (now Pakistan) did not share a common border. Throughout decades of civil war in Afghanistan the Wakhan has remained peaceful, and has never been controlled by the Taliban.
The Wakhan corridor is entirely mountainous. Life for those who live there is hard, and has changed little over the centuries. In the documentary we see yurts being dismantled, bread being made, kurut (hard salty cheeseballs) being made, for me all very reminiscent of summer holidays past and future. The way people live in the Wakhan is quite similar to ways of life in mountainous parts of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, though the Wakhan is even more remote. You can see photos taken looking across the Panj river into the Wakhan corridor in my photo album on flickr from last year’s trip to Tajikistan (http://www.flickr.com/photos/71640968@N04/sets/72157631212753764/) but from there it is still many days travel to get to the high mountains deep within the Wakhan corridor.
My only quibble with the documentary would be footage of them travelling through Kabul at the start, and the claim that you have to do this to reach the Wakhan. In fact (unless the BBC were unlucky enough to be travelling out to the Wakhan last July!) it is possible (and much safer) to cross directly into the Wakhan corridor from Tajikistan at Ishkashim, without ever venturing into Afghanistan proper. Even in the current climate, a small number of intrepid trekkers and climbers do visit the Wakhan corridor by crossing from Tajikistan, a glimmer of hope in a country with so many problems.
If you are in the UK then you can watch the documentary on BBC iPlayer here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p018hn8p/Wild_Shepherdess_with_Kate_Humble_Afghanistan/
If you are not in the UK then you either need to do some technical wizardry to access iPlayer, or log onto youtube and search for “kate Humble Afghanistan”. the full documentary is there.