Hazarajat is a historical region right in the centre of Afghanistan. The centre of Afghanistan is known for one thing and that’s its mountains. The traditional inhabitants are, surprise surprise, the Hazara people. At different points during their history they have effectively ruled themselves, although, like all of Afghanistan, they have also been ruled by an ever-growing list of empires from the Mongols to the Mughals, from the Seleucids to the Achaemenids.
The Hazara have traditionally been one of the most persecuted groups in Afghanistan and that’s a pretty big thing considering this is Afghanistan we are talking about. A country that has been in an almost constant state of conflict for centuries. Unless you know what you’re talking about or are in very close comfortable company, it’s usually best to avoid conversations about these issues whilst in Afghanistan. On one of our earliest tours, a student of politics from the UK proceeded to ask some locals questions about the Hazara people and their treatment, but received a much colder response than he was expecting. Everyone all of a sudden got tense and eventually, one Afghani individual asked him politely if he wouldn’t mind dropping the subject.
The main thing to see in this region is Bamiyan. In fact, few people would ever have heard the phrase Hazarajat, while a large percentage of people will have heard of Bamiyan. Bamiyan is famous for something that is no longer there – the largest Buddha statue in the world. In 2001 the statues were blown up by the Taliban, however, the alcove in the side of the mountain where the statue once stood is impressive in itself.
The second most famous site in the region is the world heritage listed Band-e-amir. This series of six lakes contains some of the most beautiful blue water you will have ever seen in your life. Band-e-amir translates to “The Commander’s Dam”, which is a direct reference to Ali, one of the early Islamic leaders. If these lakes were in any other country there would be jet boats skimming across the surface, 5 star hotels on the shoreline and souvenirs shops bottling the water for some prorupted health benefits. However, since this is Afghanistan, chances are you’ll be the only foreign tourists there experiencing this unique, barely touched beauty.
Getting there would be relatively easy if it weren’t in Afghanistan, being an easy drive from Kabul. However, the roads in and out of the region regularly experience Taliban and other terrorist groups setting up roadblocks, road-side bombings and the like. Of course if you were to drive the road 100 times, maybe you’d be fine 99 of those times, but that’s still a risk that we would never take, while some less scrupulous groups do. Once you get to Bamiyan, however, it is extremely safe, probably the safest town in Afghanistan. So what do we do? The sensible thing by flying.
The Hazarajat is now a region which really only exists in the minds of a small group of ethnic nationalists who think the Hazara should have their own state of sorts. The main problem is the Hazara only make up a small number of people and have dispersed across the whole country as work opportunities and conflict have moved them, thus the idea of their own rule has become a distant dream.