Pamir – Forgotten on the Roof of the World

Matthieu Paley is a favourite photographer at Steppe. His work conveys fluidity and an emotional connection with the individuals he captures on film. Which is why we are very excited by the publication of his latest book (co-authored by his wife, Mareile, and anthropologist Ted Callahan) on the Pamir Kyrgyz, whom he has been documenting for the last 10 years. Their daily life takes place against the backdrop of the magnificent Wakhan Corridor in northeastern Afghanistan, and visually it is a compelling subject, touched by an ethereal beauty. Continue reading

Alexander Volkov: Of Sand and Silk

Alexander Volkov, Coquette, 1920

Alexander Volkov, Coquette, 1920

In September 2012 Christie’s will present ‘Of Sand and Silk’, the first European solo-exhibition of the prominent Russian artist Alexander Volkov (1886-1957). Volkov was born in the Fergana valley into the family of a Russian military doctor. He achieved significant lifetime recognition for his depictions of Central Asia, his paintings uniquely combining cutting-edge Western painterly styles with the inspiration he drew from traditional Central Asian craftsmanship. Volkov loved his homeland passionately and often repeated: “One does not need the whole world. A small part will suffice”. Continue reading

White Silk Road

After writing a short blog about the very cool Untamed Borders, James wrote to tell me about a new documentary/adventure film ‘White Silk Road’ which Untamed Borders helped to film and facilitate in Bamiyan. The film tells the story of 3 Australian boarders who travel to Afghanistan to try out some virgin runs. In Bamiyan they meet a group of get-up-and-go locals who have taken to the slopes in gumboots and wooden skis. Soon the Australians (Clint, Nick and Mitch) have them trying out snowboards and expanding their ideas of the possible. If the trailer is anything to go by, this looks like required viewing…


Am I alone in not being able to resist this hedgehog?

Am I alone in not being able to resist this hedgehog?

The lovely Anne-Laure Py, who wrote for us about ikats in Steppe 6, is a social entrepreneur and the founder of Craftspring which injects design ideas into Central Asian crafts and supplies a much needed market for the artisans of the region, focusing predominately on objects made of felt. Every time I see the products they have on offer I want to reach for my credit card and the latest Winter 2012 catalogue is no exception. Right now they only sell wholesale, but there is a long list of stores across the USA that stock their products, so check them out and be beguiled…

Shout Out for Untamed Borders

There are only so many travel companies willing to take you to Afghanistan, but to take you skiing? Definitely countable on the fingers of one hand, that is where Untamed Borders make their mark. A small travel company who organise personalised trips to northern Afghanistan and Pakistan they really know their stuff and will make sure that you come back with the memories reserved for the hardiest and most intrepid of travellers, whilst knowing that you are in good hands. Their itineraries don’t stop at adventure sports either; you think of something you would like to do in northern Afghanistan and they will arrange it and introduce you to a huge array of local colour as you go.

Nomads and Networks: Ancient Kazakh Nomadic Culture

Kazakhstan’s four national museums have teamed together with the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at NYU to exhibit Kazakhstan’s exquisite bronze age nomadic heritage in Nomads and Networks. This exhibit at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery runs from 11 August to 12 November 2012. Amongst the exhibits are magnificent finds from the Scythian burial ground at Berel, in northeastern Kazakhstan. Excavated in 1998, the dig disclosed a frozen royal tomb and the remains of thirteen sacrificed horses. You can read a bit more about it here. And a bit more about the amazing Krym Altinbekov, who led the restoration of the horses’ harness and gear, in our latest edition of Steppe (Steppe 9). Amazing to think we have the permafrost to thank for something. And of course, don’t forget to visit the exhibition if you are in D.C.

News from Tartary – Peter Fleming


Peter Fleming’s News from Tartary about a journey through Xining and Xinjiang in the 1930s is a travel favourite of mine and so I’m pleased to see it back in print in a special edition thanks to the Queen Anne Press ( Beautifully bound just like the original, but with the addition of expedition map endpapers and a foreword by Fleming’s daughter, Kate Grimond, the edition is limited to 150 copies – a tangible treat in our digital world. Continue reading

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Classic FM Live – Behzod Abduraimov

Good news coming out of Uzbekistan is pretty rare these days. Last night it came in the form of Behzod Abduraimov, a young pianist from Tashkent, who played Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 at Classic FM Live at the Royal Albert Hall. My goodness it was exciting. When he walked on to the stage he seemed so young. At just 21 years old – he is. He hung over the piano like a small schoolboy concentrating intensely, and highly enthusiastically, on his homework (see the picture above). Continue reading

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Travel Local

An old friend of ours here at Steppe recently launched Travel Local  – a site set up to allow travellers from anywhere in the world to book their trip through a locally owned company in their destination, and to do so with complete confidence (payments are 100% protected). For the traveller it means cheaper, high quality trips and for local companies it allows a greater share in the tourism revenue and, I suspect, a more heightened interest in ensuring that everything goes completely to plan. Continue reading

Shakespeare’s Comedy-e Eshtebahat

This year the pioneering Afghan theatre company – ‘Rah-e-Sabz’ (Path of Hope) – will be staging Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors in Dari at the Globe theatre as part of the London 2012 Festival. The Globe is hosting productions of all of Shakespeare’s 37 plays, each performed in a different language.

The path to the Afghan production is by no means easy. Notwithstanding the fall of the Taliban, a woman appearing on stage in Afghanistan is still perceived by some to be little better than a prostitute. For over a generation men and women have not appeared on stage together and professional theatre barely exists.

A performance of Love’s Labour’s Lost, by William Shakespeare, in the Bagh-e Babur, Kabul, in a 2005 production by Rah-e Sabz. Photograph: AP Photo/Tomas Munita

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