We had been driving for hours in the Wakhan valley, and had constantly been looking outside, not to miss anything of the spectacular, wild landscapes unfolding before our eyes. At one point, we had walked down from the road to a desert-like stretch of the Pyanj riverbank. Like small children, we had been playing with the hot sand, running down the steep slopes, or even mimicking a ski slalom. The views from here were very fine, too. We were thrilled when we were driving up the switchbacks to Yamchun; every now and then, we could get a glimpse of the fortress high above us, until it disappeared from our sight. When we had gained some 500 metres altitude, the road leveled off a little, and we immediately saw the contours of Yamchung fort ahead of us - sometimes also called Kafir Qala, Zamr-i-Atash-Parast or Zulkhomar Fort.
When we stopped close to Yamchung fort, we finally realized that the builders had chosen a perfect spot, making Yamchung fort virtually invincible. Covering an entire steep hill covered with rocks, the fort almost seemed like a natural extension to the landscape. Clouds had been floating towards the valley, and Yamchung fort was alternately lit by the midday sun, or shaded by the thick clouds above. We had to hike down a steep path, cross a brook, and hike up again to reach the first of many oval watchtowers. What followed was a scramble to get up walls and towers, walk the flat plain inside the fortress, and enjoy the views on several sides of the fortress.
Originally built in the 2-3rd century BCE by the king-brothers Qahqaha and Zangibor, it is thought that the current structure was founded in the 12th century. It not only was a fortress, but also a citadel, and as such could provide a safe haven for ordinary people as well. We found that the walls actually consisted of a double defence: the thicker outer wall was protected through a thinner inside wall. The entire length of the outer walls was guarded by no less than 36 towers. The walls and towers are made with various building techniques, and considering the location they are built, those who constructed it have done an incredible job. Sitting on the wall on the valley side, seeing the Wakhan valley which is actually quite wide here, it was impossible not to try to imagine Marco Polo and other famous discoverers pass through this same landscape, and admire this same Yamchung fort.
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Yamchun fort (Tajikistan). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Yamchun fort.
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