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The Wonders Of Tajikistan's 'Roof Of The World'

The Murghob region of eastern Tajikistan, set high in the Pamir Mountains, is sometimes known as the Roof of the World. The region borders China to the east and Afghanistan to the south, and is also home to ethnic Kyrgyz nomads. Although Murghob’s mountainous landscape, arid climate, and isolation result in tough economic pressures, the region is beginning to open up to trade with western China and a fledgling tourism industry. RFE/RL Kyrgyz Service correspondent Janyl Chytyrbaeva visited the remote region and filed this photo gallery. (16 PHOTOS)

A view of the Sary-Kol valley. Ethnic Kyrgyz, who make up 90 percent of the population of Murghob district, call themselves Sary-kolduk (people of Sary-Kol). They maintain close relations with the Kyrgyz in Western China and Afghanistan, despite being separated by national borders.
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A view of the Sary-Kol valley. Ethnic Kyrgyz, who make up 90 percent of the population of Murghob district, call themselves Sary-kolduk (people of Sary-Kol). They maintain close relations with the Kyrgyz in Western China and Afghanistan, despite being separated by national borders.

A minibus fords a stream on the rocky road between Kyrgyzstan and Murghob. The 420-kilometer road, built during the Soviet era, has been partly destroyed by landslides, making it passable only by four-wheel-drive vehicles. During winter, crucial food deliveries from Osh, Kyrgyzstan, slow almost to a stop.
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A minibus fords a stream on the rocky road between Kyrgyzstan and Murghob. The 420-kilometer road, built during the Soviet era, has been partly destroyed by landslides, making it passable only by four-wheel-drive vehicles. During winter, crucial food deliveries from Osh, Kyrgyzstan, slow almost to a stop.

People walk to the Bakpur-Ata shrine in the no-man's-land between Tajikstan and China. The shrine is believed to have healing powers, but is difficult to reach because of its location in a militarized zone.
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People walk to the Bakpur-Ata shrine in the no-man's-land between Tajikstan and China. The shrine is believed to have healing powers, but is difficult to reach because of its location in a militarized zone.

A pool at the Bakpur-Ata shrine. Kyrgyz debate the origins of the holy site. Some say it's named after a relative of the Kyrgyz hero Manas, while others say its name comes from Babur, the founder of the Mogul Empire in the 16th century.
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A pool at the Bakpur-Ata shrine. Kyrgyz debate the origins of the holy site. Some say it's named after a relative of the Kyrgyz hero Manas, while others say its name comes from Babur, the founder of the Mogul Empire in the 16th century.

A boy sits in front of the Bakpur-Ata shrine at some 5,000 meters in altitude.
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A boy sits in front of the Bakpur-Ata shrine at some 5,000 meters in altitude.

Locals say that Torch Mountain, near the Chinese border, used to glow at night -- apparently from naturally occurring phosphorus -- but they say that the glow went out when Soviet soldiers shot at it.
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Locals say that Torch Mountain, near the Chinese border, used to glow at night -- apparently from naturally occurring phosphorus -- but they say that the glow went out when Soviet soldiers shot at it.

A wide view of Torch Mountain
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A wide view of Torch Mountain

The Sary-Kol valley and the snow-capped "Dragon" mountain
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The Sary-Kol valley and the snow-capped "Dragon" mountain

The peak of 7546-meter-high Muzdagh-Ata mountain, on the far side of the Chinese border, can be seen across Rang-Kul lake.
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The peak of 7546-meter-high Muzdagh-Ata mountain, on the far side of the Chinese border, can be seen across Rang-Kul lake.

A local boy runs after his goats. The high desert climate makes farming nearly impossible, and locals depend almost entirely on food imports from Osh, Kyrgyzstan. Food staples transported to the remote region cost three to five times more than in Osh.
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A local boy runs after his goats. The high desert climate makes farming nearly impossible, and locals depend almost entirely on food imports from Osh, Kyrgyzstan. Food staples transported to the remote region cost three to five times more than in Osh.

A dust storm near the village of Rang-Kul on Tajisktan's border with China. Storms like this are becoming more frequent in recent years. Tajikistan's controversial transfer of 1,000 square kilometers of land to China in 2011 has deprived Rang-Kul inhabitants of 70 percent of its pasture.
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A dust storm near the village of Rang-Kul on Tajisktan's border with China. Storms like this are becoming more frequent in recent years. Tajikistan's controversial transfer of 1,000 square kilometers of land to China in 2011 has deprived Rang-Kul inhabitants of 70 percent of its pasture.

Gulbara, a Murghob resident, bathes in a spring-fed pool thought to have healing properties, originally built as a spa for Soviet officers. Gulbara has had seven children, six of whom died at birth. Tajikistan's eastern region has one of the world's highest rates of infant and maternal mortality.
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Gulbara, a Murghob resident, bathes in a spring-fed pool thought to have healing properties, originally built as a spa for Soviet officers. Gulbara has had seven children, six of whom died at birth. Tajikistan's eastern region has one of the world's highest rates of infant and maternal mortality.

The town of Murghob was once Tsarist Russia's most remote military outpost in Central Asia at the height of the Great Game for supremacy in Eurasia. The electrical poles are a reminder of the Soviet past, when electricity was more readily available.
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The town of Murghob was once Tsarist Russia's most remote military outpost in Central Asia at the height of the Great Game for supremacy in Eurasia. The electrical poles are a reminder of the Soviet past, when electricity was more readily available.

The headlights of a truck coming from China shine on buildings in the town of Murghob, which has only an intermittent electricity supply. The town is often completely dark at night.
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The headlights of a truck coming from China shine on buildings in the town of Murghob, which has only an intermittent electricity supply. The town is often completely dark at night.

Riders take part in the At Chabysh (Horse Races) festival in Murghob. The festival was created by Kyrgyz Aty, a Bishkek-based organization, in 2009 to help preserve the disappearing traditions of the Kyrgyz nomads. The only regional cultural event in Murghab, the festival has begun to attract international tourists.
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Riders take part in the At Chabysh (Horse Races) festival in Murghob. The festival was created by Kyrgyz Aty, a Bishkek-based organization, in 2009 to help preserve the disappearing traditions of the Kyrgyz nomads. The only regional cultural event in Murghab, the festival has begun to attract international tourists.

Locals and tourists look at a crater created by a meteorite some 50 years ago.
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Locals and tourists look at a crater created by a meteorite some 50 years ago.

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