A few days in to our time in Khorog we traveled out to the city of Murghab in the far East of Tajikistan, close to the Chinese border. Sherzod, who works on the embassy’s grant programs, needed to meet with the Yak House, a non-profit dedicated to promoting local handicrafts. The American Embassy supports this kind of work through the Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation. So three of us Fulbrighters, Ashley, Bo and I, got to go along.
The landscape became increasingly austere as we gained altitude, especially compared to the bright fall colors in the valleys outside of Khorog. Murghab itself is surrounded by an almost desolate landscape, where goats graze, but no crops are possible.
It feels like a border town out of the wild west, but the people are mostly Kirghiz. The older men where white peaked hats, and many women still quilt intricate patterns into wall hangings for their daughters’ weddings. I bought one from the Yak House. They said it was made 80 years ago and its patterns represent the sun, ram’s horns and sprigs of wheat.
Kirghiz kids are universally adorable. The Kirghiz people of the region were pretty much all nomadic until the Russians built Murghab as an outpost. The city is made of stone, steel containers and the occasional yurt. It has a stark beauty to it, but it is no doubt a difficult place to live.
We barely spent a day in Murghab, but I was glad for the chance to take in the landscape. From there we returned to Khorog for a few more days.