Tajikistan 07 Feb 2015 21:44
Little Gulguna, like most children around the world, goes to school at 8am. This Morning, like every morning in the Bartang Valley starts by rearranging the room from bedroom to living room. She swiftly collects the flowery mattresses, quilts and pillows, and places them in pile in a corner of the room. She covers a neatly stacked pile of colorful mattresses with blankets, patterned with flowers and Marco Polo sheep. Pamiri kitchens sparkle as if from tales of the Far East. Walls are adorned with colorful carpets and rugs; vivid vinyl tablecloths decorate tables and cupboards, and flowery shawls grace women’s heads. Dad lights a fire in the stove. First morning smoke spreads throughout the room. It chokes and attacks the eyes. After a while you become accustomed to it. They say that apparently it's not healthy to breathe smoke, but it's better than freezing in winter at 3000 meters. It’s cold and windy outside, but inside the family begins to enjoy pleasant and blissful warmth wafting through the room. After the winter, you need to beat fabrics and clean everything, because of the smoke. Old houses can be recognized by the blackened beams on their ceilings. For breakfast, Gulguna enjoys a bowl of her favorite shir thai. Shir thai is a milk tea with salt and margarine added, perfect to dip pieces of homemade bread into. She is just about to leave the house, when mum fixes her hair and helps her put on her backpack. She goes to school happily. Lessons begin when all the kids are present, so there are never late. Roshovr, a village in which Gulguna lives is made up of the Ismaili, common throughout the Tajik Pamir. The Ismaili are a progressive branch of Islam, labeling them to other groups as heretics. For centuries persecuted, they found their refuge in the mountainous regions of Asia: Pakistani and Afghani Hindu Kush, Iran, and here in the Tajik Pamir. Khorog, home to 28,000 is one of the biggest Ismaili cities. The rest are scattered in villages in the mountains. Their spiritual leader is the Agha Khan, educated and living in the west. The 49th imam instructs his followers to follow the ways of the present day. He urges people to learn English, as it is considered to be a language of science and to learn to use computers, themselves a tool for learning. Women may or may not cover their heads. You often see them walking with their long black hair free in the wind, conversely, some may opt to due to the harsh, hot and sandy climate. Muslim women in this part of the world are free. Their position in society may have its differences, but could be looked upon as equal to that of men. They can learn and they can work. If they want to study, they go to university and afterwards, they marry a man they chose.