Smiles in the Wakhan Valley of Tajikistan

While traveling in the Wakhan Vallery of Tajikistan a group of children dressed in silk were delighted to have their photo taken flashing radiant smiles.

Our old Russian jeep needed petrol so we stopped in at a village where some guy had a tank of fuel in his backyard. While that was happening I wandered down the lush green fields surrounding this tiny settlement in the Wakhan Valley of Tajikistan.

This narrow corridor of fertile land is squeezed between the mountains and the Panj River, across which are the barren hills of Afghanistan – only a stone’s throw away.

It was a sunny, peaceful day and I hadn’t gone far before I saw children running through the fields. They were coming to see the unusual visitors.

They smiled and giggled and gestured they would like me to take their photograph. I tried to take a photo of the whole group but they couldn’t stand still, jostling around me before I could press the shutter.

These three girls wanted their photograph taken also, and stood proudly together to pose. But at the moment of the picture being taken one was overwhelmed with shyness.

I love their brightly coloured scarves and dresses. The girl on the left wears a dress in the classical pattern of silk weaving in Central Asia. Such patterned silk was found in the court of Kublai Khan.

Their cheeks are rough with sunburn and their clothing is threadbare but I will always remember their joyful curiosity.

Natasha von Geldern is a freelance travel writer passionate about “making the pages of the atlas real”. She blogs at

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