Tajikistan is not an easy place to visit. Visas are almost impossible to get and it is dangerous to go there because the region has been troubled by internal strife since it became independent in 1991. The tortured topography of the high Pamir having isolated the various tribes in their separate valleys for centuries these developed fierce clan loyalties and antagonisms long before the region came under Russian influence in the 19th century. With soviet power removed, civil war erupted between the moderate northern tribes and the conservative islamist southern clans. Truce after truce were negotiated only to be promptly broken. This complex situation is further complicated by the participation of Tajiks in the Afghan conflict and vice versa.
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Large mural depicting the rites of hospitality on the side of a apartment building in Penjikent.
Tourist guide Hamrakul in front of the Rudaki Museum (named after Abu Abdulah Rudaki said to be born here and considered to be the father of Persian poetry).
Tajik hospitality, sharing tea, nuts, sweets and bread with Hamrakul (private guide, ex Intourist), Arty Petrossian (co-owner of the Samarkand agency Afrosiab Travel), Bahodir (our driver from Samarkand) and Nijoskul owner of Tajik Travel.
Ruins of Bunjikath, a major Sogdian city founded by the Achaemenids of Persia in the 5th century BC. It was taken by Alexander in the 3rd century BC, was controlled by the Kushan Empire from the 1st century BC to the 3rd century AD, then by the Sassanid Empire of Iran until invaded by the Hephtalite Huns in the 5th. who held it until the Western Blue Turks from Siberia took it in the 6th. Penjikent felt the Tang Chinese presence early in the 8th century but the city was abandoned after the Tang were chased out of Central Asia by a coalition of Arabs, Turks and Tibetans in 751.
The very competent ex Intourist guide Hamrakul knew every stone of the vast expanse of these ruins. Of the several photos I took of what looks like a chaotic mass of rubble, this one is the most interesting. It shows the remains of a Zoroastrian temple more than 2000 years old. It is said that the two alcoves seen above, held images of Ahura Mazda, the god of good, and of Ahriman, the god of evil.
The market on a Saturday.
Inside the market.
The "New" Mosque.
Old and new mosques. Below, two beautiful old men, the guardian of the old Mosque on the left and a passer by in the market on the right.