Saturday, May 14, 2011


Those of you who are not on Facebook may not have hear about my recent jaunt over to Khujand - one of the northernmost cities in Tajikistan. We (other students and I) took a car and driver from Dushanbe to Panjakent to  Istaravshan to Khujand. While Panjakent and Istaravshan are amazing , this blog post is going to focus on a.) the long drive to Khujand and b.) why Khujand was worth the journey.

In order to reach Khujand by car we had to travel through a long tunnel built by the Iranians and then proceed to climb over the Shahristan Pass. The Iranian Tunnel would be a perfect set for a horror movie. The tunnel isn't lit, and is filled with debris, water, ice, boulders, and who knows what else. It's a death trap. Crossing the Shahristan Pass was also quite an adventure - the views were absolutely gorgeous, but I definitely felt like a rag doll being tossed around in the back of the Range Rover.

The cliffs are steep, there are no guard rails (or bathrooms) and if you look over the side of the road you can see the remnants of wrecked cars. Occasionally we were delayed by a herd of goats moving from winter to summer pastures, and I probably ate half a kilo of fresh cherries on the journey (yum!). Travelling the Khujand wasn't a cultural experience - but I gained a newfound appreciation for Tajikistan's rugged, inaccessible beauty.

Khujand is also home to some awesome history - Khujand was the northernmost city founded by Alexander the Great during his conquest of Central Asia. Khujand is (was) also home to the largest Lenin statue in Central Asia, which is now being moved to a new location in Tajikistan. We were able to visit the statue just as it was being dismantled by the Tajik government.

Besides my trip to Khujand the only other news worthy event has been my little host sister's 7th birthday. Tajiks love parties - and when a birthday or any other special event rolls around a family is expected to throw a lavish (by Tajik standards) feast to commemorate the event. My host mother told me that Shukrona's birthday party would be a small affair - but when I returned home from the office there were about adult relatives and maybe 10 children in our howli (courtyard) doing what all Tajiks do during parties - eat, talk, and drink tea. Conversation centered around the price of meat in Tajikistan, the terrible Tajik economy, marriage, kileens, and finding a Tajik husband for myself.

I'll try to squeeze in a few more updates before I return to the U.S. on May 23rd - a journey I'm begining to dread. I love my host family, have a good grasp on the language here, and feel like I still have so much to learn. I'm already trying to figure out how to wrangle a return to Tajikistan (sorry Mom).

1 comment:

  1. Good morning how are you?

    My name is Emilio, I am a Spanish boy and I live in a town near to Madrid. I am a very interested person in knowing things so different as the culture, the way of life of the inhabitants of our planet, the fauna, the flora, and the landscapes of all the countries of the world etc. in summary, I am a person that enjoys traveling, learning and respecting people's diversity from all over the world.

    I would love to travel and meet in person all the aspects above mentioned, but unfortunately as this is very expensive and my purchasing power is quite small, so I devised a way to travel with the imagination in every corner of our planet. A few years ago I started a collection of letters addressed to me in which my goal was to get at least 1 letter from each country in the world. This modest goal is feasible to reach in the most part of countries, but unfortunately it’s impossible to achieve in other various territories for several reasons, either because they are countries at war, either because they are countries with extreme poverty or because for whatever reason the postal system is not functioning properly.

    For all this I would ask you one small favour:
    Would you be so kind as to send me a letter by traditional mail from Tajikistan? I understand perfectly that you think that your blog is not the appropriate place to ask this, and even, is very probably that you ignore my letter, but I would call your attention to the difficulty involved in getting a letter from that country, and also I don’t know anyone neither where to write in Tajikistan in order to complete my collection. a letter for me is like a little souvenir, like if I have had visited that territory with my imagination and at same time, the arrival of the letters from a country is a sign of peace and normality and a original way to promote a country in the world. My postal address is the following one:

    Emilio Fernandez Esteban
    Calle Valencia, 39
    28903 Getafe (Madrid)

    If you wish, you can visit my blog, where you can see the pictures of all the letters that I have received from whole World.

    Finally I would like to thank the attention given to this letter, and whether you can help me or not, I send my best wishes for peace, health and happiness for you, your family and all your dear beings.

    Yours Sincerely