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  • A traveler’s guide to Tajikistan

    photo by Ben Paarmann on Flickr

    Like its neighbors Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, or its fellow Central Asian country Turkmenistan, Tajikistan is not the likeliest travel destination that will pop up on the first pages of a travel guide to Asia.

    But like all these other countries, Tajikistan has a few well kept secrets that have the potential to make any traveler jump up with delight. Granted, Tajikistan is not the luckiest country on the planet: it is one of the poorest in Central Asia (if not the world), and it has been ravaged by civil war.

    But Tajikistan is fast getting back on its feet, and even tourism is slowly becoming more and more common in these lands. If you are looking for unique sights and culture in a place that is largely unknown to visitors, here is a traveler’s guide to Tajikistan.

    About Tajikistan

    photo by Steve Evans on Flickr

    In the past, Tajikistan was part of the vast Persian empire, and the country’s culture bears many Persian influences to this day. The hemajority of the inhabitants are Farsi people, an ethnic group that can be found in many parts of Central Asia and the Middle East, and the country was one of the cradles of Persian language and culture.

    Tajikistan was also located on the famed Silk Road, and many of the legendary stops on the road can be visited. Although the civil war in the 90’s, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, claimed a lot of lives in Tajikistan, today the country is very safe, and despite the lack of tourist facilities, it is one of the most spectacular regions in Central Asia.

    The landscape of Tajikistan is dominated by the impressive Pamir and Altai Mountains, and regardless whether you’re more interested in cities or natural wonders, you can find them all in this country.

    Things to see

    If you are traveling by plane, you will most likely land in Dushanbe, the country’s capital and largest city. Unlike other Central Asian capitals, Dushanbe doesn’t seem to be too seriously afflicted with Soviet architecture, and some parts of the city are actually reminiscent of South American colonial towns. even the Soviet monuments and murals that can be spotted in the city are quite impressive.

    Ancient Silk Road towns are a must-see if you visit Tajikistan, especially Istaravshan, which is the oldest city in Tajikistan, being more than 2500 years old. The mountain scenery is one of the country’s best draws. With both the Pamirs and the Altai, Tajikistan has some of the most awe-inspiring scenery in Asia. Hiking and trekking opportunities abound, and there are quite a few interesting ski resorts too, which make great destinations despite not having many facilities.

    Cuisine

    photo by Veni Markovski

    Foodies will love Tajikistan just as much as travelers seeking more visual sights. The national dish of Tajikistan is plov, a concoction of carrots, mutton and rice, and many of the dishes commonly eaten by Tajikistani are reminiscent of other Central Asian specialties.

    Another interesting specialty is dolma, steamed rolls stuffed with meat and cabbage leaves, and there are great many soups with vegetables and mutton. Don’t forget to try the Tajikistani version of sambusa, a filled pastry that is a staple in Africa and many parts of Asia.

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