The Wakhan Corridor, situated in a remote and rugged region, is officially recognized as part of Afghanistan, contrasting with Tajikistan’s Wakhan Valley to its north. This area is characterized by steep, rough-walled high mountains and is traversed by river valleys that interweave the Pamir, Tien Shan, Karakorum, and Hindu Kush mountain ranges. The Wakhan Corridor, a narrow strip of alpine valleys and towering mountains, extends eastward from the Badakhshan region, following the origins of the Amu Darya River in the Pamir Mountains.
The Wakhan Corridor shares borders with Tajikistan to the north, Pakistan to the south, and China to the east. It stretches more than 200 km from east to west and has a width ranging from 20 to 60 km from north to south, encompassing a total area of approximately 10,300 square km. The corridor encompasses the easternmost ranges of the Hindu Kush and the south easternmost ranges of the Greater Pamir range, where they converge with the Karakorums.
The formation of the Wakhan Corridor took place during the late 19th century as a result of geopolitical maneuvering between the British and the Russians, known as the Great Game. The primary purpose behind establishing the Wakhan Corridor was to act as a buffer zone between the territories of these two empires. The Wakhan region, including the significant geographical feature known as the Pamir Knot, possesses exceptional value in terms of its unique environment, biodiversity, and its human inhabitants, which include settled Wakhi farmers and nomadic herders who reside in yurts, namely the Kyrgyz.
The Wakhan area is divided into three distinct geographical sections. The first is the primary Wakhan strip that stretches between Ishkeshem and Qala Panja. The second is the Pamir Knot, which consists of two separate blocks of high mountains, namely the Pamir-e-Kalan or Big Pamir and the Pamir-e-Khord or Little Pamir. This division reflects the geographical and topographical features of the region.
The establishment of imperial boundaries during that time led to the division of the Wakhi people across three different countries. As a result, communication between these separated communities has diminished, causing each group to develop their own distinct paths. In the early 20th century, the Kyrgyz shepherds sought to protect their traditional way of life from Russian influence and sought refuge in the most remote regions of the Wakhan Corridor, where they continue to reside to this day. Visiting these communities is no small feat, requiring considerable time, effort, and financial resources, but the experience is undoubtedly rewarding. Their lifestyle closely resembles that of earlier times witnessed in the Wakhan area and the Pamir region.