No. 116 in Karakul - or - the price of glass

Marjolein Katsma

Groningen, Netherlands

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Wall Art


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Share this page Photo © 2009 Marjolein Katsma | Text © 2010 Marjolein Katsma

Tags for this photograph:
karakul, kara kul, qaraqul, murghab, murghob, gorno badakhshan, tajikistan, travel, wall, door, window, bowl, plastic, white, yellow, green, blue, peel, peeling paint, mud plaster, melting snow, 116

About Karakul

The Kara-kul crater is a meteorite impact crater formed about 25 million years ago or less than 5 million years ago, depending on who you listen to. This large crater is named after the lake in the middle of it (Karakul is a Kirgiz word meaning ‘Black lake’), at nearly 4000m the highest lake in Central Asia – which is not black but blue except when it is frozen over in winter. Near the lake is a village, also named after the lake. This village is the most in the middle of ‘nowhere’ I’ve ever been.

This Google maps view shows the location of Karakul on the shore of Lake Karakul and right next to the Pamir Highway.

It was an unforgettable experience staying in a home stay in Karakul with our hospitable hosts; the people here in the Murghab district of Gorno-Badakhshan in Tajikistan are predominantly Kirgiz. In these remote areas they lead a semi-nomadic life, tending sheep, goats and yak (or cow-yaks) in the mountains during the summer, and staying in the villages during the long harsh winter. We were there in late spring, and it was still very chilly, often with snow falling on the nearby mountains of the Pamirs.

I have many images of Karakul, and I’m organizing them by theme, doing a theme at a time (alternating with themes from other places in the world). Here’s the first:

Windows and glass – or the price of glass.

                                         Use these thumbnails to navigate the whole series:

                                         No. 116 in Karakul - or - the price of glass   The price of glass - how to fasten a plastic sheet   Boarded up, with a ladder   Boarded up - with style (1)   Boarded up - with style (2)
                                         Narrow door, narrow window   The price of glass - how to save on repairs   Glass, plastic and pink curtains   Karakul window - sellotape, tinsel and a lace curtain   Karakul window - double glazing and red plastic flowers

Karakul is located along the Pamir Highway. That sounds grand, but while it is the main road connecting Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, where there is any pavement at all it’s mostly full of potholes, and on long stretches there is no pavement at all. Obviously, there is no glass factory in a remote village like this – glass has to be transported here from afar; glass is also very breakable, so it’s extremely hard to get large sheets of glass make it in one piece over the long trip over very bad roads. Consequently, glass is expensive, and small panes are better than large ones. There’s another factor, and that is the extreme weather: houses are often built here in Tajik style with few windows facing outwards, and those that do are small which preserves heat.

Let’s look at some windows and see how glass is used – or not, as the case may be: these windows tell a story.

Here, the outside door of a house. There’s a window next to the door, providing light for a small entrance hall – a place where the shoes can be left when it’s raining or snowing, and where there might be a wash basin. But there’s no glass in the window – at all! There’s only a sheet of plastic. That’s more readily available than glass, and much cheaper. After all, the function of the window is not to look outside, but to let light into the house.

Next to the door some battered buckets and a bowl – they may be used to carry things like kindle and dried dung for fuel into the house.

The harsh climate is also very hard on paint which soon starts to peel. The blue of the window frame is the normal color here, the green of the door rather unusual. There are traces of mud plaster running down from the top of the wall, caused by melting snow on the flat roof. The wall has recently been repaired, but still needs a fresh coat of paint.

Camera: Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1


Artwork Comments

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