Khojand Part 2: A Central Asian City    

Though mountains rise up to the North, East, and South of Khojand, the town itself is very flat. It has tree lined streets and is fairly clean. It has a lot of modern looking stores (in comparison to Kyrgyzstan) but also a lot of Soviet concrete buildings and monuments.

If the weather is clear, you can see the mountains south of Khojand

Khojand was the first city we visited in Central Asia that din't feel completely Russified. By the bazaar, there was a mosque with blue tiled domes, a brick minaret, and a brick mausoleum with beautiful carved wood doors. The bazaar's main building, though it was a Russian building, incorporated Persian designs.

The entrance to the Panchshanbe Bazaar

Of course, this makes sense since unlike many cities in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, Khojand was a big city before the Russians showed up.

entrance to mausoleum of Sheikh Massal ad- Din

pigeons at mausoleum of Sheikh Massal ad-Din

An example of the fine wood carving which decorates doors

Door of mausoleum of Sheikh Massal ad-Din

The old city walls are now big piles of dried mud, though they reconstructed sections of the fortifications with more permanent bricks. There was a park at the foot of the walls where there were sculptures of Nasredin Hoca and other children's book characters.

Reconstructed tower of old city walls

Rowshan as Nasredin Hoca

At lunch we discovered the area had delicious apricot juice available for extremely cheap in restaurants and the bazaar. The bazaar is a large Central Asian bazaar with sections of nuts, oriental salads, meats, and produce. Outside the main bazaar, Rowshan took photos of some of the produce sellers.

inside the Bazaar

women selling tomatoes and cucumbers

The women were delighted to have him photograph them and most chatted with him in Farsi/Tajik and me in Russian. A couple gave us gifts of fruit. It is such a contrast to people in South America who don't want photos taken or demand money. The women were friendly and laughed lots. Most of them wore dresses that make me think of Hawaiian mumus-- a yoke above the chest and then lots of fabric loosely falling to calf or ankle.

grape seller

friendly produce seller

greens seller

Some draw with a eyebrow pencil across the top of the bridge of their nose to connect their eyebrows. This is how the women in Persian miniatures look. It is quite a different aesthetic from the eyebrow plucking done in the US. Rowshan also noted that they spoke with Persian which was more correct than the Persian spoken in Iran. Perhaps the Tajiks are more close to the Persians of the past than the Iranians. We rested at a chaihane and were given a thorough questioning by the guys who worked there.

Our favorite chaihane in Tajikistan

They served us tea, even though they were technically closed and then didn't charge us for it. Using the public toilet next to the chaihane, I couldn't help laughing that the price included 1 carefully torn square of toilet paper. It brought to mind a really bad joke one of our friends in Istanbul used to tell about how to wipe with one square of toilet paper.

Down the street we noticed people selling vegetables to huge crowds from a truck. We didn't think too much of it but Rowshan stopped to take a photo. A policeman told him it was forbidden. He wouldn't say why. Of course, this made us more curious and we wondered if there was some conflict between collective farmers and the government.

Collective farmers sell vegetables from trucks

We spent some more time admiring aspects of the city including an ornately decorated restaurant with a carved and painted ceiling that reminded me of Chinese wood architecture except with Islamic and Persian designs.

A very fancy looking restaurant

The hotel price was about $17 for a double. The room included a bedroom, dining room, empty room--which could have been a kitchen if it had appliances, a rather stinky bath, and a thriving colony of roaches, ants, silverfish and some other insect I didn't recognize. When we checked in, water wasn't functioning but we were told it would be on in the evening. In the evening, we saw the water was on, running out of the faucet and out of the water tank in a waterfall over the electrical wiring. There was, however, no hot water from the faucets. The floor manager came in and connected a couple wires on the other side of the bathroom but still there was no hot water. Then a repair man walked in and reported the hot water tank had a leak. He also said it would be the 3rd he'd fixed today. The leaking part, a metal boiler piece was completely rusted. He put a new one in and told us to wait a half hour for the water to heat. But, half an hour later, the water was cut.

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