Trans Eurasia travel

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The atmosphere in the main town of Sistan region (Sistan and Baluchestan Province), Zabol, is frankly unpleasant and it is not advisable to stay there any longer than is strictly needed as the proximity of the Afghan border makes travel in Sistan difficult for foreigners. Drug trafficking across the border is a major problem and consequently the police and the locals are wary of outsiders.

It may be necessary, however, to pass through to reach Kuh-e Khwajeh (pronounced Khajeh), a Parthian site a few kilometres southwest near the village of Divaneh. This ancient citadel dates back to the I century AD and was built on a basalt outcrop in the centre of a lake. In winter, when the water level is low, it is usually possible to walk out to the island, but in spring one has to take a tuten, the local form of punt made of reeds. The frescoes on the walls of the citadel for which this site is famous were taken away long ago, but the ruins of the palace and a fire temple can still be visited.

The word Zabol is of Sanskrit origin and is derived from Jabala and the name pertains to the period when Hinduism was the professed faith of the area and the area was politically and culturally part of al-Hind or India. Zabol lies on the border with Afghanistan, but also close to the border with Pakistan. Referred to as Sistan until the late 1920s, the city was renamed Zabol by Reza Shah Pahlavi.

Zabol is located near Lake Hamun and the region is irrigated by the Hirmand River. Lake Hamun is a seasonal lake that is often dry. The people of Zabol are predominantly Persians who speak a variant of the Persian language and known as Sistani or Seistani which is very similar to Dari, also known as Afghan Persian, and a minority of Baluchs who speak Baluchi, a north western Iranian language. The tribes of the area include the Sarabandi, Shahraki, Arbabi, Narui, Barahui, Gorgij, Herati, Ghanbari, Afshar, Barani, Sarani, Fakhireh, Mir, Dahmardeh, Rashki, Sanchooli, Pahlevan, Faghiri, Divaneh, Gorg, Nohtani, and Sayyadi. In recent years these tribal names appear in the surnames of the inhabitants of the area. There are also hundreds of Brahuis families who speak Baluchi and some Pashtuns in the city.

Zabol area is well known for its "120 day wind" (bād-e sad-o-bist-roz), a highly persistent dust storm in the summer which blows from north to south.