The death of a Pamiri


Text by Fred Daudon


The Pamir region is crossed by one of the most dangerous road on Earth, known as the Pamir highway. Each year, many Pamiri people are dying in car accidents due to frequent rock and snow slides.

Before burying the dead person, they do a specific ceremony to guide the dead person to heaven in peace.

I was present at the funerals of a musician who was living in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan. He was 35 years old.


The neighbor I was going with to the funerals, told me to take off my red jacket. On top of exciting bulls, the red is a synonym of joy in Pamiri culture. For example, the bride wears a red dress on her wedding day.

Traditional pamiri house

The funerals are always conducted in the house of the dead person. The architecture of a traditional Pamiri house reflects the pre-islamic beliefs of the local people which have been adapted to Islam characters.

The ceremony

The ceremony starts at dark by blessing the family of the dead person. Then the caliph (equivalent of a local imam or sheikh) recites verses of the Quran. He is mentioning the saints and pirs of the valley.

They coil coton like a braid while reciting Quran. One member of the family is holding one side of the rope and the caliph the other side. They stretch it and then fold it until the caliph has the entire folded rope in his hand.

The metaphors

The folded cotton rope is put in a metallic container which is itself sitting on a bread.

The bread represents the earth and the rope the link between the world of the living and the world of the dead

They pour some inflammable wax on the rope and then set fire to the rope with two sticks wrapped with the remains of the cotton. The prayers continue.

At the end of the ceremony, the caliph, his assistant and the family members pass their hands over the flame of the rope and wipe out their face while praying.

Each time they put more wax on the rope to maintain the flame alive.

The ceremony ends with prayers.

Music is played after the ceremony to accompany the mourning.


The dead are orientated towards Mecca