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NORTHEASTERN AFGHANISTAN

MAZAR-E SHARIF &

148 MAZAR-E SHARIF

CLIMATE

The northern plains see extremes of tem- perature. Baking summers (up to 43°C) and freezing winters (occasionally down to -10°C) lead Mazar-e Sharif’s citizens to joke about their paka o posteen (‘fan or furcoat’) climate. Spring and autumn are thankfully more temperate. Faizabad has a more mod- erate climate, although winter snows make travel in Badakhshan problematic between October/November and March/April. The high altitude Wakhan Corridor has warm days and near freezing nights even at the height of summer in July, while early snow effectively cuts the region off from the rest of Afghanistan from late September.

GETTING THERE & AWAY

Regular flights with Ariana and Kam Air link Mazar-e Sharif to Kabul. Kam Air also operates a twice-weekly flight to Herat. Ari- ana runs an erratic schedule for Kabul serv- ices to Kunduz and Faizabad.

The Salang Tunnel connects the north- ern and southern halves of the country. The main highway from Kabul to Mazar-e Sharif

NORTHEASTERN AFGHANISTAN

Kamashi Kalaynay

Shurguzar Dekhkanabad

Baysun

TURKMENISTAN

Pashkhur Shirabadd Akkurgan

Karlyuk Dali Qarchi Gak Aqcha Feyzabab

Pashmi Qaleh

Kariz

Kheshendeh- ye Bala

Bakhtgan-e Bala

Tarkhoj Do Shakh Bajga Barfak

To Bamiyan (10km)

Jabal Saraj

Ghorband Gulbahar

Charikar

Northeastern Afghanistan

Kolowr Va Dah Sil

Balkh

Mazar-e Sharif

Boyni Qara Tashkurgan

Pir Nakhchir Jan Bulaq

Dzharkurgan

Gilyambor Termez

Kheyrabad Hairatan

Chorbog Dusti Shaartuz Denau

U Z B E K I S T A N

Shurchi

Kurgan- Tyube

Regar Gissar Dushanbe Boshkengosh

Yavan Gurdara Dangara Khanabad

T A J I K I S T A N

Vakhsh Kolkhozabad

Bolshevik Pyandza

Shir Khan Bandar

Kunduz

Kunduz

Aliabad

Samangan (Aibak)

Robatak

Baghlan

Pul-e Khumri

Doshi Khenjan

Salang Pass (3363m)

Nilaw Atiti Nahrin

Bagnlan

Anjoman Pass (4430m)

Khawak Pass (3848m)

Iskazer Chitral Barg-e Metal

Kona

Nuristan Wama

Kamdesh Arandu

Nuristan

Asmar

Mirkhani Biaso Parkhar Imam Sahib Yangi Qal Ei

Chah-e Ab

Dasht-e Qala Chichkeh Khwaja Gar

Ai-Khanoum

Taloqan

Khanabad

Takhar

Ghowrayd Gharami

Kishim

Badakshan

Ishkashim Zebak Qasideh Jurm Sar-e Sang

Noshaq (7492m)

Lon Dung Gushten Maroi Singur

P A K I S T A N

Domot Dusi Sazin Chilas Koliap Saral Baihk Pahot Barmas Handrap Morich Munjawa Brep Pasu Chatorkhand Gupis Bubur Baltit Nomal Bargu Pain Hope Gilgit

Dorchan Hurban

Silbu

Ramghat Pul Ame Ges

Rattu Catt

Mushkin Astar

Khume Kalan Elga

Faizabad

Baharak Khandud Lasht

Shighnan Arakhat

Lake Shewa

Khorog Muminabad Kulyab Imeni Vase Khosfav

T A J I K I S T A N

Pastkhuf Gunt

Vankala Dzhiland

Khargush Rubot

Qila-e Panja

Chaqmaqtin Lake

Sarhad-e Broghil

Broghil Pass

(3882m)

Bozai Gumbaz

Dilisang Pass (5290m)

Buattar Kil Khudabad Dzhartygumbez

Lake Zorkol

Tokhtamysh

Corri

Shaymak Kyzylrabot Nurex Barchidev Vod Ab Murgab

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and on as far as Andkhoi is excellent, as is the road from the Pul-e Khumri junction to Kunduz and Taloqan. A 4WD is recom- mended for travel to Faizabad, and is es- sential further into Badakhshan. There are two border crossings between Afghanistan and Tajikistan, at Shir Khan Bandar (near Kunduz) and Ishkashim (in Badakhshan). The border with Uzbekistan at Termez is open, and with sufficient paperwork it’s just about possible to trek from Badakhshan into Pakistan over the Dilisang Pass.

MAZAR-E SHARIF

ﻒﻳﺮﺷ راﺰﻣ

x050 / pop 800,000

Mazar-e Sharif is north Afghanistan’s sprawl- ing urban centre, a relatively modern city standing on the wide steppes near the bor- der with Uzbekistan. Compared to some of the neighbouring towns it’s a relative youngster, and was long overshadowed by the power and prestige of its neighbour

Sangvor Kevron Rovand Rangkul

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Balkh. It took the dreams of a group of 12th century noblemen to change that, when they claimed to have found the hid- den tomb of Ali, the Prophet Mohammed’s son-in-law, buried in a local village. Balkh declined and Mazar-e Sharif grew as a place of pilgrimage. Its shrine today is the focus of the national Nauroz celebrations. For travellers, it has plenty of amenities, and is a good base for the sights of Balkh ( p155 ) and Samangan ( p158 ). Mazar-e Sharif is a mixed city, with large populations of Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras (many Pashtuns fled after reprisals fol- lowing the collapse of the Taliban). This cultural mix is represented in the city’s cul- ture, in everything from the Central Asian flavours on the menu in restaurants, to the comparatively liberal attitudes to women’s education. Mazar-e Sharif is even the centre for a women’s musical college – something unthinkable elsewhere in the country. The city’s location also means that it is

a great centre for that true Afghan sport of the plains, buzkashi. Games can be seen most weekends throughout the winter until

0200 km 0

120 miles

MAZAR-E SHARIF

RISK ASSESSMENT

Mazar-e Sharif has been the centre of turf wars between Uzbek and Tajik interests, but was quiet as we went to press. The main highway through Balkh Province regularly reports robberies, and the crime rate has increased of late. In the northeast, the areas around Kun- duz and Taloqan have seen worrying signs of deterioration, with roadside Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and alleged infil- tra tion of anti-government elements. Bada- khshan is largely calm, although tensions exist between opium producers and eradi- cation efforts, resulting in the targeting of some internationals involved in anti-opium programmes.

the Afghan New Year. Mazar-e Sharif be- comes flooded with visitors at this time, for the annual Nauroz celebrations (see boxed text, p152 ). Nauroz coincides with the Gul-e Surkh festival, named for the red tulips that flower on the steppe, which are associated with prosperity and fertility. Mazar-e Sharif mostly sat out the re- cent wars that afflicted Afghanistan, but its outward prosperity masks deeper po- litical problems. In the post-Taliban envi- ronment, the city became a case study of Afghanistan’s warlord problem, with rival Uzbek and Tajik strongmen jostling for power and control of revenues from natural gas reserves and the cross-border trade with Uzbekistan. At the time of writing, the situ- ation was stable, but political competition still occasionally sparks into violence. The presence of a NATO Provincial Reconstruc- tion Team (PRT; led by the UK and now Sweden) has helped calm tensions.

HISTORY

Mazar-e Sharif was the nondescript village of Khairan in the shadow of Balkh until the miraculous dream that revealed the location of Ali’s tomb. A town quickly grew around the shrine, attracting many pilgrims until the Mongol’s Year Zero levelled the area, push- ing it to the margins of Afghan history for several hundred years. Mazar-e Sharif only regained its status when Ali’s shrine was re- built in the last years of the Timurid empire. Since then, the town grew steadily until it

•• History 149

NORTHEASTERN AFGHANISTAN

MAZAR-E SHARIF &

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