Darya Ajdahar


Five kilometres west of Bamiyan lies Darya Ajdahar, or Valley of the Dragon, where you'll find the petrified remains of a monstrous creature that once terrorised the region. The dragon took up residence in Bamiyan in pagan times, and fed daily on a diet of virgins and camels provided by the browbeaten population. All attempts to slay it ended in a fiery end. Only Ali, the Prophet Mohammed's son-in-law, fresh from creating the Band-e Amir lakes, could manage the task. The dragon's burning breath turned to tulip petals as they licked around the hero, whereupon he drew his great sword Zulfiqar and cleaved the monster in two.

The dragon can clearly be seen and only those lacking poetry would remark that its body is merely a vast whaleback of volcanic rock split by an ancient earthquake. Others would point instead to the 2m-high horns and the two springs at its head - one running clear with the dragon's tears, the other red with its blood. The springs run the length of the great fissure and bending quietly down next to it, you can sometimes hear the groan of the dead beast echoing through the rock. At the far end of the dragon is a simple shrine dedicated to Ali.

The new village of Ajdahar lies at the head of the valley, built by the UN for Hazara returnees from Iran and Pakistan. It's a grim place, with barely a scrap of greenery, but the villages are trying hard to make a living. The dragon lies at the valley's far end - look for the white smear on the rock and the spur of the dragon's horn on the north slope. Wear decent footwear for the short climb.

A round trip from Bamiyan to Darya Ajdahar in a private vehicle will cost around Afg500. Transport leaves erratically to Ajdahar village (20 minutes, Afg30).