Ask anyone selling just about anything in Tajikistan’s lonely eastern outpost of Murgab where they got it, and odds are they’re going to give the same answer: Osh, Kyrgyzstan.
At over 3,600 meters above sea level, little grows in dusty Murgab. Food is imported. Locals burn short, dry shrubs and yak dung to keep warm and cook their food. Seven hundred years ago, Marco Polo described the region as “nothing but a desert without habitations or any green thing, so that travelers are obliged to carry with them whatever they have need of.” It seems an unlikely location for any kind of settlement.
The town of approximately 5,000 ethnic Kyrgyz and Tajiks was the site of Pamirskii Post, a Russian garrison established at the end of the 19th century.
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Keith Mellnick is a freelance writer and photographer currently working in Central Asia.