Mysterious Pamirs

We'll fly together with you to the Pamirs,

To see the whole world from the roof of it!

We'll fly with you there,

Where the ores glimpse under the sky...

Here, all together - Vanj, Ishkashim and Wakhan,

Gunt, Rushan, Shahdara and Shugnan,

The glistering ruby of Badakhshan.

Well, the old lady at night,

Will sings her night melody – lalaik.

Zarina Asanshoeva


“The mysterious land of the superhuman” that is what so often people call Pamirs who once visited it and dream of returning again in order to feel again the proximity of the beautiful blue peaks, see the silvery waters of the rivers, breathe the fragrance of mountain herbs, drink a bowl of shirchoy (milk with tea) with people who easily walk along the rough trails where the fallow-deer trail, managing to have fun and telling others about the Pamir biking, assuring that all the above is truth.

The territory of the Pamirs is quite extensive and it includes the Pamir Alai mountainous ridges extending between Tien-Shan in the north and Hindukush ridges in the south, which in turn, includes three separate parts for instance the Pamir or the Pamir Highlands, Southwestern Pamir Alai and Hissar-Alai mountain system. Thus, under the concept of "Pamir" territory of several countries are understood, these are the territory of Afghanistan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan (foothills of the Hindu Kush) and Tajikistan, which occupies the larger part of it, part of the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region. The highest point of it is the Kongur Peak (7719 m) in Kashgar mountains of Chinese Pamirs and the highest point on the territory of Tajikistan and the CIS is the Peak of Ismail Somoni (formerly Communism Peak -7495 m), located in the north-western part of the Pamirs, on the ridge of the Academy of Sciences close to the ridge of Peter I.

The toponym theory of the “Pamir" are several and some of them are very interesting. It is usually associated with the ancient Iranian "Pai-and-Mehr," which means "foot of Mitra" (goddess of the sun from the Zoroastrism) or "Pam-and-ihr" - "roof of the world".

In the VII century Chinese traveler Xuan Zang during his travels first described Pamirs "high mountains with a harsh climate and eternal glaciers" he  called Pamir "Po-mi-lo" and described it as a cold and windy region, where it is constantly snowing.

In the XIII century Venetian explorer and traveler Marco Polo (the one whose name is given to Pamir argali which has elegant, ornate horns), who visited the Pamirs, called it Pamer - edge, where it is so cold and high.  "There are a lot of wild animals and different fowls here. It takes three days to go to the northwest from here and you should climb all over the mountains which are the highest place in the world. At the same highest point of the mountain between the ravines a glorious river stream. There are the best pastures where thin cattle will get fat here in ten days. There are many wild animals. Many large wild sheep inhabit here, which have six or four and three palms of the hand,” was remembering the Venetian.

In fact the problem with the etymology of the name of the place was that it was not possible to clarify the issue of its first origin, whether it is a proper name and applied to the specific mountain system or a common "Pamirs"  concerning to all mountain systems in Central Asia. As a result, the modern toponymy tends to believe that the Pamir is a proper name not talking about its origin.

The researchers of Slavic Literature V.V. Ivanov and V.N. Toporov linked Pamir with the Indo-European prefix po- and the root –mer which means "limit, boundary." The scientists propose that such name can be found from the name of "Pomeraniya" and in the words of different languages: Iranian marga - "boundary", Latin margo – “Region”, Gothic marka - "border".

There are also other versions like "po-i-mur" - "the foot of death", "po-i-murg" - "bird foot" and "Pa-meru" - "a golden mountain", but they are all unreliable.

The most certain option of the name of the place is the Sanskrit origin similar to other names like Aymir, Kashmir and Tirachmir which refer to the word of "lake". In fact Pamir is famous for its stunning and numerous lakes. However the researchers think about this version with criticism.

The geographical location of the Pamir is debatable as well. For example, in the literature for climbers and hikers the Pamirs is divided between North Pamir, Northwest, Central, West, South-West, East and China.

The Eastern Pamir is a vast mountainous desert, height and surrounded on all sides with high ranges. One can get to it from Vanj or Savnoba. The North Pamir is available from Alai Valley. It consists of  Zaalai, Zulumart and Saukdara ridges. To get to the North-Western Pamir is possible from Lahsha (ex. Jirgatal).

The West and North West elevation of Pamirs is huge and reaches to 4100 m and the relief of it is like a heaven, it has deep gorges interspersing with rapid rivers forming canyons, and covered with snow and ice peaks like a sharp Alpine shape. For example, the regional center of Vanj which is located in the Vanj valley at an altitude of 1882 m has the highest peak Arnavad which reaches to 5992 m. The fascinating Vudor Peak (6132 m) in Yazgulem ridge stretches in the Yazgulem and Bartang valleys where you can observe a lot of greens, groves of poplar and birch trees, thickets of sea-buckthorn berries and juicy, bright and sweet apricots.

The western ridges of Darvoz, Vanj, Yazgulem and Rushan are usually referred to the Western Pamirs and the base of Darvoz ridge, Peter I and the northern part of the Academy of Sciences ridge are referred to the North-West with its famous peaks for instance the peak of Ismail Samani (7495), the peak of Korjenevskaya (7105), the peak of Russia (6875), the peak of Izvestia (6841), the peak of Moscow (6785), the peak of Garmo (6602) and others.

From Khorog, the capital of Badakhshan to the Osh city of Kyrgyzstan can be reached on the Pamir Highway, the highway which connects Badakhshan with Kyrgyzstan (East Pamir Highway, 701 km) and to the capital city Dushanbe on the West Pamir Highway (567 km). A new road is built in China through Kulma pass and its total length is 395.6 km (Khorog - Murghab - Kulma).

It is noteworthy that the Great Silk Road passed through the Pamir in ancient times - caravan route from China to the countries of Central and Southwest Asia, which consisted initially of the Azure Road where once upon a time lapis lazuli was transported from Badakhshan to the countries of Mesopotamia (Ur, Lagash) and India and Jade Road was functioning to the end of II thousand BC, where semi-precious stones were delivered from the area of ​​Kunlun and exchanged with silk of China.  

However Pamirs is notable not only for its stunning views and dizzying heights. For instance, on a hot summer season here one can see all four seasons of the year and it is enough to move from one part of the Pamir Plateau to another, down or up to a particular height, but also to make an archaeological tour, visiting the excavations of the royal palace in the ancient city Caron in Darvoz district not far from Kalai Khumb (during the investigation which carried out in 2012, archaeologists have managed to liberate from under the soil the Avestan fire temple, the windmill, the foundation of several residential buildings and administrative buildings). And meet with the superintendent of Caron, who has the appearance of an old man with sly eyes, robe and skullcap. Listen to the legends and dargilik - wise old Pamir motifs of oral folk, to sit on the right bank of the Tajik river Wakhan which forms part of the Wakhan Corridor - a narrow strip of land 15 to 57 kilometers width, stretching along the river Wakhan that belongs to Afghanistan now, which once was dividing the Russian Empire from British India, to bathe in the hot springs of Garmchashma and cast off the whole load of problems, sorrow and grief.

And also to meet with the Pamiri people who speak their Pamir languages ​​(dialects) and practice Ismailism - the Shiite branch of Islam. Visit the Pamir homes and enjoy a bowl of delicious shirchoy - national warming beverage. And take a knitted juraby (socks) as a piece of warm memories of the harsh region, home to the Mountaineers with light eyes and an open mind.

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