The Horse Festival in Murghab! It is held once every two years. And we are there!

Please have a look at Harry’s photos (previous post) of the Murghab Horse Festival.

The festival is fanciful! It belongs to myth and legend. Men wear curious hats. They slip down the bellies of regal horses to pick up red parcels off the dusty ground. Bare-chested men wrestle each other off horse-backs. Dapper men chase and catch girls-on-horseback. Then girls chase and whip men-on-horseback. Tiny boys in three piece suits recite epic passages of Tajik poetry. And all the while, elders with triangular beards cluck and coo.

It’s fabulous. It’s dazzling.

And it’s easy to forget that the people of Murghab are up to their necks in hardship!

And we should not forget ….

  • The village of Murghab is snow-bound and cut-off from the rest of the world for four months of the year.
  • Snow lies a meter deep and temperatures drop as low as -45 degrees Celsius.
  • There are no trees. They collect shrub and dung for fuel and use mud bricks to build small, stocky homes.
  • Families are shut indoors for winter. They live sparingly off goods stock-piled in summer.
  • Mosquitoes make a mockery of the short summer! They are unfair and bloat with blood. While little children scratch their faces to pieces.
  • Water comes from small, individual wells. These freeze in winter and families need to draw water from a larger well on the outskirts of the village.
  • Electricity is erratic; it alternates daily between the two halves of the town. The voltage is too low and the amperage is too high, to charge anything.

We salute the people of Murghab! They are made of exclusive stuff to rise above all this … their daily drudge.


The village of Murghab in Tajikistan. It’s situated high in the Pamirs at 3576m.


And Lenin still presides here (and in most other towns and villages).


The houses are very basic. Electricity is erratic with a voltage too low and an amperage too high to charge anything!


We stay here. The modest family run guesthouse is fully booked because of the horse festival. Zabek (right) offers and we gratefully accept a room within their house.


Don’t underestimate Zabek. Here she translates for a visiting French dignatory at the Horse Festival. Studying English & French in Bishkek for 1,5 years has set her apart!


The family house has 4 rooms. This is the communal room.


This is the only ablution and it is in the communal room. A 2l container slowly drips water into a basin through a home-made tap. A bucket in the cabinet below collects the used water.


This is the only stove in the whole house. It is used for heating and cooking during winters.


This is the window of our room. See the home-made plastic double glazing.


This is Zabek’s brother. He is busy with building extensions to the guesthouse. The mosquitoes bother him constantly.


The houses are made from mud, one course at a time.


Zabek’s pretty little niece. See the scrub in the background that is used in lieu of wood.



The family dog – what it lacks in limb it makes up in character.


Here is the family’s well used during summer months.


In and around town, we see …. this gentlemen ….


… and this man’s ‘porsche’ t-shirt feels miles away …


… loads of attitude … in pink …


… and blue …


… a grandfather and his two grandsons on an old ural …


They rush to see the different country flags on our panniers. The Tajik flag (at the end) draws big smiles!


This is the village market … a few rows of containers. (see how the ladies cover up their faces – from the wind, sun and mosquitoes)


… like this one …


… the butcher shop …


… a carpet shop …


… and the only petrol station … measures petrol out in plastic containers …


All in a ‘summer’s’ day’s work – inside and outside.



The mosquitoes are abusive!!!!! And this AFTER I dunked my head in DEET insect repellant!


A picture of us 3 bitten one’s. I thought I’d spare you a second picture of my face.