Open Edition

fine art prints by National Geographic photographer Matthieu Paley

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After getting a shave from his dad, Khairuddin disposes of his hair in a ‘clean place’, such as this frozen river on the edge of camp. Although the Kyrgyz are Sunni muslims, their rituals also reflect other ancient traditions.

Khudo Boz


It was midday. A couple of weeks of altitude trekking and simple food got me lethargic; i laid under a tree. Khudo Boz came by, all ready to cut barley, asked if I wanted to join. I lifted my camera, his outfit revealing years of hard work.

Kitshiq Aq Jyrga


I was riding a horse, trying not to get my teeth knocked out. Whip in mouth, a Kyrgyz man steers his horse in a game of buzkashi, a competition akin to polo—except a headless goat carcass takes the place of the ball. Buzkashi is the Afghan national sport. The Kyrgyz call it ulak tartysh, or “kid grabbing.”


Lost Highway

“My name is Om, only Om.” He was young and smiling.

“I left before sunrise. I am walking from my home in Hoshangabad to the temple of Salkanpur, up on that hill. You see, I just got a job, I need to thank the gods! İ will return home tonight.”

I had not realized he was barefoot, wearing a freshly ironed shirt but no shoes.

Panshamdal, Kunti & Dalba

Lost Highway

Traffic is crazy, my van is on the side of the road, I record sound: “How many months have you been walking?”

“It’s been 16 months.” It’s reflected in the guy’s beards, they shaved it at the beginning of their walk and didn’t touch it after that.

“How many kilometres a day?

“We walk about 12km daily” 

“Which length of Parikrama (pilgrimage) are you doing?”

“We are doing the auspicious 3 years, 3 months, 3 days. We are Panshamdal, Kunti Bai and Dalba Yar.”

We hug and I leave.

Pegish I

From the Steppes

Pegich kept circling the flames, busy as she was, mending the fire, preparing diner. The wife of Er Ali Boi, she is named after the Wakhi village she was born in, a week walk down the valley. Most Afghan Kyrgyz woman have their blouses decorated with shiny pretty things – trinkets gathered over the years, as well as with old family heirlooms.

Raje Krishna

Lost Highway

You couldn’t miss him—such colors! On his throat is written the word “Krishna”. He is a traditional performance artist known as a behurupiya.

“I am Raje Krishna on my way to the temple, that’s who I am!”