Nomads by necessity, the Kyrgyz move their herds across the Wakhan—a panhandle of alpine valleys and high mountains in northeastern Afghanistan.
Nomads by necessity, the Kyrgyz move their herds across the Wakhan—a panhandle of alpine valleys and high mountains in northeastern Afghanistan.

Stranded on the Roof of the World

Afghanistan’s Kyrgyz nomads survive in one of the most remote, high-altitude, bewitching landscapes on Earth. It’s a heavenly life—and a living hell.

The khan dreams of a car. Never mind that there isn’t a road. His father, the previous khan, spent his life lobbying for a road. The new khan does the same. A road, he argues, would permit doctors, and their medicines, to easily reach them. Then maybe all the dying would stop. Teachers too could get to them. Also traders. There could be vegetables. And then his people—the Kyrgyz nomads of remote Afghanistan—might have a legitimate chance to thrive. A road is the khan’s work. A car is his dream.

“What kind of car?” I ask.

“Whatever car you want to give me,” he says. The ends of his mustache curl around a smile.

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