Astride the fast-flowing Kokcha River, Faizabad is a largely Tajik town, home to the rump Afghan government during the Taliban era. It’s an amiable place with a traditional bazaar, and is good to catch your breath for a few days if travelling to or from the Wakhan Corridor or the Tajikistan border.
The town has been the capital of Badakhshan since the 17th century. Its name (‘Blessed Abode’) is taken from the cloak of the Prophet Mohammed that was brought here by the ruling mir of the time. The cloak is now kept in a mosque in Kandahar.
The bazaar in the old town follows the street pattern set out during this time, a winding mass of roughly pitted streets between the main square and the river. The bazaar is of great interest to travellers, and knitted socks make good souvenirs. On the street west of the main square there are several lapis lazuli dealers. The blue stone is brought here from Sar-e Sang, although the best goes to Kabul. A kilo of medium quality lapis will set you back around US$100 here. Some jewellery is also made locally, but is generally of inferior quality next to what’s available in the capital.
Faizabad has a pleasant climate, its heat moderated by breezes off the river. Given that it’s an entry point to the mountains, it’s a surprise that it sits at just 1200m – lower than Kabul. The town is particularly pretty in spring and early summer, when the fields and slopes sing with greenery. TV Hill, overlooking the old town, is worth climbing for great views. Nauroz is an interesting time to be here, as the holiday is usually followed by 10 days of buzkashi held on the field at the edge of Shahr-e Nau.