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Tashkurgan (Khulm)

Balkh Afghanistan 400 m

Tashkurgan is a city in northern Afghanistan in Balkh Province, which is the administrative centre of Khulm District. Its name translates from Uzbek as "stone fortress". The city is also known as Khulm in Dari, which translates from Persian as "hill". It is situated on the southern edge of the Bactrian plain at the northern foothills of the Hindu Kush. The Samangan River originates in the mountains and flows through the town, dividing into numerous artificially created irrigation canals. The town is situated 60 kilometres from the administrative centre of Balkh Province, Mazar-e-Sharif and also 60 kilometres south-east from the town of Aybak, which was previously a part of Samangan Province. The road to Aibak passes through the Samangan River Gorge, known among Soviet servicemen in the 1980s as the "Macedonian Gorge".

In the 18th century Durrani troops destroyed Khulm and founded the town of Tashkurgan. Tashkurgan became the capital of the independent state in 1845, and was then part of the Kunduz Khanate. In 1859 all of northern Afghanistan came under the rule of the Afghan Emir, and the city's importance began to decline. In the 1960s an asphalt road was built from Kabul to Mazar-e-Sharif via Tashkurgan, reducing the journey time from two weeks to 8-9 hours. In the 1980s the city was a commercial and transport centre, which played an important role in supplying the KSA and the DRA government forces, but its importance declined after the war.

Tashkurgan's landmark is the palace complex of Baghi Jahan Nam, built in 1889-1892 during the reign of Emir Abdur Rahman. The residence was used as a stopover place for the Shah of Afghanistan during his travels in the northern provinces. The palace was in the style of Mughal residences with a swimming pool and garden. It was rebuilt between 1974 and 1976, but was damaged by an earthquake in 1976. In the 1980s, a motorised group of KGB border troops was stationed in the palace.

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