No:52 – Tajikistan – A land of pristine natural beauty …

About the Blog …

The blog is based on my visit to Tajikistan, as a part of my 2023 Silk Road Tour.

Type of vacation …

Solo tour with a driver and a guide, exploring Penjikent/Panjakent, Seven Lakes Etc.

Country Counter: Countries/territories I have visited so far …

Travel TipsTips based on my travels so far …

What I liked best …

(1) Duh … Natural beauty!

(2) Very friendly people.

What I did not like …

Nothing. I loved the visit! (Please note that Tajikistan is a relatively poor Country. So, if you are visiting, please set your expectations accordingly).

Location in the World map …

 

Some interesting tidbits about Tajikistan …

 

Tajikistan, a country in Central Asia, yet another land-locked country, is surrounded by Afghanistan, China, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. It is known for its mountains, and is popular for hiking and climbing. The Fann Mountains, near the national capital Dushanbe, have snow-capped peaks that rise over 5,000 meters. The range encompasses the Iskanderkulsky Nature Refuge, a notable bird habitat named for Iskanderkul, a turquoise lake formed by glaciers.

  • Ethnicity: 84% Tajik.
  • Tajikistan == “Land of Tajiks”.
  • 98% Muslims (Sunni Islam).
  • Sogdian Empire: Sogdia or Sogdiana was an ancient Iranian civilization that at different times included territory located in present-day Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan (E.g. Samarkand, Bukhara, Khujand, Panjikent, and Shahrisabz).
  • Used to be the smallest and one of the poorest republics of USSR.
  • 90% of Tajikistan is mountains.
  • Changes: Communism –> Capitalism // Atheism –> Islam.
  • Tajik Civil War: Tajik Civil War or the War in Tajikistan, began in May 1992 when regional groups from the Garm and Gorno-Badakhshan regions of Tajikistan rose up against the newly-formed government of President Rahmon Nabiyev.
  • Cotton farming was/is a lucrative business in most villages.
  • Tajikistan is listed one of the most corrupt countries in the World.
  • Tajikistan is a major port for drugs coming from Afghanistan and then being dispersed to the rest of the world.
  • Tajikistan has 9 million people and is one of the poorest countries in the world. They have natural resources, but no process to get them out. Half of this landlocked country is also at an altitude of over 3000 meters (9842 feet).
  • Russia took control of this area during the late 1800s, and after the Russian Revolution in 1917, the Bolsheviks burned or closed religious places. In the 1920s this region became the Tajik Soviet Socialist Republic. It was one of the poorest regions in the USSR. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Tajikistan declared its independence, then fought a civil war. During this time Emomali Rahmom was elected president in 1992 and is still the president 26 years later. Yet another long-term ruler in the “Stans”.
  • 1 TJS (Tajikistan Somoni) is around 7.56 INR. (How these currency values are pegged, I will never know!)
  • Almost all locals talk exclusively in Tajik language. English is being taught in schools since 2015 and I can notice small kids eager to try out their English 🙂 Russian is 2nd language over here.
  • Do not see eye-to-eye with Kyrgyzstan. Border issues.

 

My Experiences

The below collages will give a good overview of the spectacular scenery I saw in Tajikistan.

“Seven Lakes” (“Haft Kul”): Seven glacial lakes in Western Tajikistan, near the town of Panjakant. Each lake has a name. The 6th lake is the largest.
1st Lake (Nezhigon): At 1760m altitude.
7th Lake (Hazorchasma): At 2400m altitude.

There were several villages in this area. Had lunch at one of the local houses and also walked around the villages a bit.
Could see a lot of donkeys in the villages. Donkeys are used for transport in these villages, which perched on the mountains, and do not have paved roads.

All the 7 lakes have Blue/Turquoise waters and are extremely clear. There was roughly 3m less water than Summer (Snow is yet to melt fully). These lakes were frozen till 20 days back.

After Lakes 1, 2, 3 & 4, bypassed Lakes 5 & 6 and went first to 7th Lake. Chehron was concerned about land slides and possible rain. From 6th Lake, it is a 2.5km draining climb to get to the 7th lake. It reminded me of KAZ Charyn Canyon trek and and the multi-day trek to Machu Picchu. The walk to the 7th Lake was beautiful!

7th Lake is the highest and the deepest (30m).

All around the “Seven Lakes” region, it is narrow single lane roads. One has to be very careful. Else, it is an icy bath for sure! 🙂

 

 

Initial impressions:
(1) For a supposedly poor nation, the asphalt roads, where it is there, are something to behold! Smooth as silk. The contrast when moving from the “way richer” Uzbekistan to Tajikistan was striking. But keep in mind that most of the roadways in Tajikistan are unpaved 🙂
(2) The natural beauty is WOW! Just wow! And I have barely scratched (a tiny portion of) the surface. I believe the guide when he says that the rest of Tajikistan is equally beautiful.

 

Chehron (Guide, on the left) & Jurabik: Both are from Penjikent, Tajikistan. They came to Uzbekistan border in a nice Toyota SUV. Chehron learned English in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan. Both have been fasting for Ramadan. Chehron speaks kayish English. His parents live in a village around 75km from Penjikent. Jurabik’s family lives in Dushanbe. They primarily speak in Tajik. Chehron has 4 siblings. All are married or studying. Chehron can also speak Russian. Most Tajiks speak Russian (2nd language). He wanted to be a Policeman. Changed his mind while in Dushanbe. As per him, English is becoming popular in Tajikistan. Chehron’s Father is a Doctor (Paediatrician). His Father is the only university graduate in his village. His Father studied Medicine during the Tajikistan Civil War (right after its Independence) in Dushanbe. Jurabik went on cracking random Tajik jokes, as if I could understand 🙂 Look at Jurabik giving the “finger” (To me?) … LOL 🙂
The seating arrangement for lunch in the village near Seven Lakes, Tajikistan. I was embarrassed to have food in front of Chehron who was fasting for Ramadan.
Raisins, Sugar-based Sweet Etc.
Soup, Salad, Bread and of course, Tea 🙂
Damlama, made of Beef, Potato, Beet, Cabbage and Onion. Very nice.
Bought these trinkets for 10 USD. Liked the color.
The narrow single-lane roads were regularly used by donkeys and their masters.
A nice view, during the walk through a village …
Tajik kids from a village we passed on the way … Seven Lakes, Tajikistan.
Beautiful ceramic plates at the hotel I stayed in Panjakent.
Tajikistan flag. At the hotel in Panjakent.
Iftar dinner with Chehron and Jurabik. Dates and a Sunflower-based Sweet.
Iftar dinner with Chehron and Jurabik. Meat soup and Salad.
Iftar dinner with Chehron and Jurabik. Beef Kebab.
The restaurant we went to. In Tajikistan, most people fast during Ramadan. The restaurant had a lot of customers for Iftar.
Toilet roll … Different from what we normally see. The dispenser is also different, to match the roll with no central hole.
View of Panjakent town … I found Panajakent (and surrounding areas) quite free of plastics and other Non-Bio-Degradable stuff.
Map of Ancient Panajakent … Various tenements are marked.
The Fan mountains give an awesome backdrop to Panjakent. It was cloudy and indeed started to rain very soon.
Fat-tailed Sheep. Their hind quarters are filled with fat and the fat is used in cooking Plov, Kebabs Etc.
Panjakent Historical Museum.
Ancient ossuary, in which bones of dead people were kept.
Attire … Newer style to the right.
Nice way to display a photo album.
President of Tajikistan, Emomali Rahmon. He has been the leader since 1994.
Tajikistan flag.
Symbol for Tajikistan. Note the Cotton, Wheat and Mountains.
Emomali Rahmon, President of Tajikistan, meeting various leaders from around the World.
Emomali Rahmon, President of Tajikistan, meeting various leaders from around the World.
Mashrutka (Van) stop. Different routes are marked with boards. The primary local transport. There is no Metro, Buses Etc.
Administrative building, Panajakent, Tajikistan. President Emomali Rahmon’s picture an be seen in the background. The statue is of Tajik hero Ismoili Somoni.
Tajikistan flags in full glory … Administrative building, Panjakent.
Vendor selling Samsa and other pastries.
That green item is sour Apricot.
Mosque, near the Bazaar.
The Namaz timings on display.
We entered the Mosque briefly … There were people praying.
Black Tea and Bread, during lunch at Panjakent.
Beef and Onion Soup. Bits of fat are also present.
Beef Kebab. It was very juicy.
The restaurant where I had lunch. Again, I was embarrassed to eat in front of Chehron, who was fasting.
Panjakent Bazaar. Colorful wares. It was bustling with activity. One has to jostle for space with other people and carts being pushed around.Fruits, Vegetables, Grains, Bread Etc.
Entrance to Sarazm Archeological Site, UNESCO World Heritage Site. From 4th Millennium BC! Man, that is old …
There are walkways around the complex and several active dig sites.
This is one of them …
Tajikistan Somoni … One TJS== 7.5 INR, roughly.
Uzbekistan (UZB) – Tajikistan (TAJ) Land Border Crossing @Jartepa: An interestimg experience. I have heard that UZB is very strict regarding what is taken out of the country. So, when I crossed to TAJ, I expected strict checking. None. Zilch. Nada. Just walked through the customs. I missed the TAJ Passport Check Counter (and did not get TAJ stamp) as it was not marked and had to walk all the way back from the exit point into TAJ (with my wheel-less bag, in which I have been piling up stuff from KAZ, KYR and UZB 💪😎). Had some trouble finding this “hidden gem” of a counter. Luckily, a Filipino Maths Teacher, who has worked in MiddleEast, NY, KAZ, UZB, TAJ Etc., came like a good Samaritan and guided me. The TAJ staff were very friendly and even tried to chat with me, upon seeing all the various stamps in my passport. When I crossed back into UZB, I was 30min early and had to wait for my Samarkand driver. I was relentlessly pestered by UZB cab guys. Had to ward them off till my driver arrived.

 

 

 

 

 

Adios!

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