Badakhshan, province, Afghanistan

Badakhshan bädäkhshänˈ, bədəkhshänˈ [key], province (1979 est. pop. 497,000), 17,011 sq mi (44,059 sq km), extreme NE Afghanistan, between the Hindu Kush Mts. and the Amu Darya River. The capital is Faizabad. Renowned for its mineral wealth, it is the world's chief source of lapis lazuli, a semiprecious stone. The deposits have been worked for more than 3,000 years. Rubies, emeralds, amethysts, and gold have also been mined. Mountain goats and the famed Marco Polo wild sheep are hunted in the province. Some agriculture and sheep and goat herding are also practiced. In 1859 it became a part of Afghanistan. Badhakshan's most distinctive feature is the Vakhan (Wakhan Corridor), a long narrow panhandle that passes between Tajikistan in the north and Pakistan in the south, linking Afghanistan with the Xinjiang region in China. Badakhshan was once part of the ancient Greek kingdom of Bactria. Many of its inhabitants are Tajiks.

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