Storing fuel in Karakul (2)

Marjolein Katsma

Groningen, Netherlands

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Share this page Photo © 2009 Marjolein Katsma | Text © 2012 Marjolein Katsma


Tags for this photograph:
karakul, kara kul, qaraqul, murghab, murghob, gorno badakhshan, tajikistan, pamirs, wall, plaster, plastered, roof, flat roof, patties, dung, towers, graffiti


A flat roof is handy for storing things, and traditional houses in Tajikistan normally have flat roofs. They are used to store things like farm equipment, fodder, or fuel. In winter though a flat roof gathers snow, and when the snow melts in spring the melt water tends to damage the mud plaster (or worse, the construction) of the walls. Mud walls and mud-plastered walls tend to need yearly maintenance (and so does the roof, normally also made from mud).

This wall is well-maintained (although there’s also a bit of graffiti scratched into it), and you can see the water damage at the top of the wall has just been repaired. On the roof stand two little ‘towers’.

The towers are fuel. The patties can be burned in the cast-iron stoves found in every house here. Burning wood, which is so scarce here that every scrap of it is reused and reused again, is naturally out of the question. Karakul sits firmly above the tree level.

But people keep yaks and maybe some goats, which produce dung, which actually is a good fuel material. So the dung is gathered (it’s useless as fertilizer since agriculture is not possible here either), and made into fuel. Basically there are two methods for doing that. Both start with dung, and maybe some extra straw, mixed together with some water. Then you can hand-form small ‘patties’, leave them out to dry, and stack them up – in a yard, or on top of a flat roof. Or you make a shallow, rectangular pit in which you thoroughly mix the dung and straw, and then smooth it and leave it to dry. When it’s almost dry, cut it into rectangular pieces – exactly as with turf harvested for fuel! When they’re a bit drier, they can be taken out to dry individually, and when they’re dry enough you can stack them up on a wall.

The result of the first method is what you see here on this roof.

Camera: Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1


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