Saturday, October 08, 2011

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Tajikistan - glorious mountains and beautiful people

Posted by Hippo Bean at 11:59 PM
The border to Tajikistan at Penjikent was closed. So we drove the 4 hours from Samarkand to Khujand, Tajikistan's second largest city instead. I was disappointed because I really did want to go to Penjikent, so I could catch a glimpse of the Pamirs and the Fann mountains. That's the reason why I chose this tour which it covered the 5 Stans. Most other tours did not cover Tajikistan. Besides, Penjikent had more interesting archaeological sites, once a fortified city with a palace, temples, markets and houses decorated with paintings with clay statues of ancient gods, and itself a Silk Road city. But Khujand offered a different experience. It's the entrance to the Fergana Valley, which went also into Uzbekistan. The Uzbek roads were very bumpy. Again we did the custom forms formality and at the border tons of locals cut in line, and we were simply sick of it and this time we've told them loudly to not cut in our line, even though they of course didnt understand a word we said. But once crossed the no-man's land into Tajis border, our local guy, a very young and good looking kid was waiting for us and we got our stamp with no fuzz at all. I had wanted a visa, like the one we got from Turkmen but there was no visa on our passports, even though we paid $100 each ahead of time for our group visa.

There was only 2 very small 14 persons van to take us on the hour drive to the other side of the mountains where Khujand was situated. Good thing we only brought an overnight bag. There was no room for our big luggage. The Tajis road were new, smooth, fast, and not bumpy at all. Our vans raced each other on the road. The view of the mountains, though not tall and not the Pamirs, were very soothing and after 2 weeks in the desert towns, I welcomed the view of the mountains. The local guide spoke good English. I was told 90% of the Tajis population was under 20. But the country is the poorest in the Stans, and had just gotten over a very terrible civil war. Tourism is flourishing but they're still learning it and need more time to get it together.

However our hotel the Grand Khujand was brand new, the rooms were ginormous, the bathroom had color toilet paper and camay bar soap and rain showers. For the first time I saw Al Jazeera on TV. It had the best and most covered news. I spent all evening watching it. I wish we could get it at home.

We visited the regional museum which was in a building built like a fortress, just across from our hotel. The basement had fake artifacts of Persepolis, even with a fake lamasu! Not much else was in this tiny museum. The best part of Khujand was their bazaar. The building had a very nicely decorated portal like an Islamic mosque or madrasa It's big and very authentic. The bottom floor had all food and produce. The upstairs which circled the place, had all kinds of shops, clothing, articles for every day use, shoes, jewelry. We went mad there and again the stores reminded me of the ones at my hometown. The façade of the bazaar had nicely decorated persian islamic tiles. It's located on one end of the central square and although it was late in the afternoon, it was buzzing with people and activity. On the other end of the square, was the city mosque, and next to it, the Sheik Muslihiddin's Masoleum. We werent allowed to go inside the mosque, so we just hanged out by the entrance and peeked in to see how it was decorated. Not as grand as the other we've seen but nicely done. Tajis were very friendly and beautiful looking. They kept coming to talk to and take pictures with us. The mountains here although not very tall, were gorgeous. Khujand is a beautiful town with beautiful people.

For dinner we ate at a local place that offered us their version of steak - a hamburger paddy again. The store next to the hotel had color toilet paper and I wanted to buy some to take home for Mom but they didnt take dollars and we didnt have any somonis since we're only there for less than a day.

I've spent the evening watching Al Jazeera on the flat screen TV in my hotel room. I simply loved their news coverage. I wish we could spend more time there because the city was interesting, the people beautiful and the hotel was very nice. And oh finally mountains all around, except they're not the Pamirs.

khujand mosque

Khujand photos



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