Category Archives: Afghanistan

Mughal India: Art, Culture and Empire

Instructional poem for pigeon-fanciers by Valih Musavi (1788) (c) British Library Board
Instructional poem for pigeon-fanciers by Valih Musavi (1788) (c) British Library Board

There is still time to rush out and see the British Library’s latest Exhibition “Mughal India: Art, Culture and Empire”, which closes on April 2nd. It might not, at first sight, appear to be a natural stamping ground for Steppe readers, more interested in the lands further north. However, it goes without saying that the clue is in the name. The Mughal Empire was ultimately sprung from the Mongol and Turkic dynasties of Central Asia, descended from Genghis Khan and Tamerlane. Its founder, Babur (1483-1530) was born in Ferghana and briefly ruled in Samarkand, but was forced from his homeland by Uzbek invaders, and ultimately moved his power base to Kabul and then India. Continue reading Mughal India: Art, Culture and Empire


Here at Steppe we’re getting excited about Nowruz, Persian New Year, which is celebrated across Central Asia on March 21st or a day either side depending on when the spring equinox (the sun entering the sign of Aries) is observed. The festival is a grand celebration of the coming of Spring and each country has its own traditions. As a starter for ten, we thought we’d share this beautifully illustrated video of Nowruz, Iran-style. More to come on the different ways it is celebrated in the region in the coming weeks.

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 Pamir – Forgotten on the Roof of the World

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…

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.

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

Continue reading Shakespeare’s Comedy-e Eshtebahat

Alexander Burnes: Travels into Bokhara

Eland Books have just launched a beautifully edited edition of Alexander Burnes’ Travels into Bokhara. When the original was published in 1835, Burnes became an overnight sensation, lecturing to packed halls in London and even given an audience by the King. At the tender age of 26, Burnes travelled into the unknown territories to the northwest of the British empire in India, reaching as far as Bokhara in modern-day Uzbekistan. Dressed as a local and in command of the local languages, the brilliant Burnes reported back on the geography and politics of the region, right at the beginning of what later became known as the Great Game between the British and Russian empires. Continue reading Alexander Burnes: Travels into Bokhara