Sightseeing in Tajikistan
Dushanbe (till 1929 – Dyushambe, till 1961 - Stalinabad) – is the capital of the country, located in Gissar valley in the South of Tajikistan. The climate in Dushanbe is continental, dry and hot in summer, and damp and cool in winter. The Dushanbinka river (Dushanbe-Darya, Varzob) flows through the city, it feeds a man-made lake Komsomolskoe in the center of the city. Varzob Gorge is in the north of the city – numerous recreation areas are situated in it.
Dushanbe arose on the place of the village and got the city status in 1925. In 1929 it became the capital of young Tajik SSR and was renamed in Stalinabad. In the same year the railroad construction was completed, and it increased the further growth of the capital. In 1961 the city was renamed in Dushanbe, and in 1991 after the breakup of the USSR, it became the capital of the independent Tajikistan.
Dushanbe – is the transport and industrial center on textile manufacture, electrical equipment and provisions, as well as building materials (cement, integrated house-building factories). Mechanical engineering and metalworking, light industry (cotton, silk, leather and footwear, clothing), food-processing industries are highly developed here.
The capital has the Academy of Sciences of Tajikistan, 8 universities (including the Tajik University, which was opened in 1948), 6 theaters (including Tajik Opera and Ballet Theater) and several museums: Museum of Local history and Fine Arts, ethnographic museum, museum of literature after Aini and M. Tursunzade. From the point of view of the architecture, the buildings of Opera and Ballet Theater after Aini (1939-1946) and the computer centre (1976) are of great interest.
It is a very green city, almost completely created by human hands in the foothill zone. The streets of modern houses were built taking into account the seismic activity of these places. They beautifully stretch over the slopes of the surrounding mountains. Dushanbe is one of the highest capitals in the world and one of the largest cultural centers in Asia.
The monument of Ismoil Somoni in the Ozodi square, the monument of Abu Ali ibn Sino, Sadriddin Aini Mausoleum, Rudaki avenue, City park, the Library after Firdousi, Opera and Ballet Theatre after S. Aini, Choykhona “Rokhat”, Rudaki monument, the historical museum (the best one in Asia at the same time!!) and the monument of Sadriddin Aini are the places of interest of the city. The ethnographic museum is a real “showcase” of the Tajik art with the impressive exposition of the brown ware, carpets, jewelry and musical instrument of all historical epochs of Tajikistan. Tajik United Museum holds interesting exhibitions on history, science and art of this country. The large indoor market Barakat is the centre of the business activity of the capital, a typical eastern bazaar with all characteristic attributes in that case.
Monument of Ismail Somoni
The monument of Ismoil Somoni is situated on Ozodi square. The height of the monument is more then 25 meters. This monument was placed in 1999 in honor of 1100 anniversary of the state of the Samanids. The monument is richly decorated with gold and looks impressively.
Abu Ibrakhim Ismoil ibn Akhmad Samani (April, 849, Ferghana – November, 24, 907) was the amir from the Samanids dynasty, the founder of the state in Central Asia.
There are several suppositions of his place of birth. The researchers think that he was born in Fergana or Balkh. Ismoil was born in the family of the local aristocrat, Akhmed, the son of Saman-khudat.
Gissar fortress is situated in 26 km from Dushanbe in the center of Gissar valley, the most green and densely-populated part of the country. From all sides the city is surrounded with the mountains: from the North – Gissar range, from the South – the Gazimalik mountains, from the Southwest – the Babatag mountains.
Gissar fortress has been known for more than 2500 years. Being the residence of Gissar bek, the governor-general of the emir of Bukhara, the fortress, as we would say now, was an important administrative and political center of ancient Tajikistan. In the XVI century the majestic stone gates were constructed in the fortress. The fortress, which had the walls of 1 meter thick, loopholes for guns and cannons, was guarded. Inside there was a pool and a garden. Large staircases and terraces, surrounded by bricks led to the main entrance. Time did not spare the fortress and its structures. Instead of walls with loopholes, only contours remained. There is no palace and stairs with terraces. The only thing that remained is a monumental gateway of brick with two cylindrical towers, between which there is an ogival arch. Most of gate in Bukhara of the 18 - 19 centuries were built in this way. But even this piece now looks quite impressive. Besides the castle there are two huge plane trees, which are about 500-700 years old.
The old madrassah (Medresei-kukhna) of the XVI– XVII centuries remained till now days. It is a portal and domed construction with wide yard, inside of which there are khujris (cells), library and new madrassah (Medresei-nav) of the XVII–XVIII centuries. Only two-storied façade remained from. Later all constructions, representing the architectural ensemble, and which resemble the ensembles of Bukhara and Samarkand, were restored, and today they are similar to the original appearance. At the beginning of the XX century from 100 to 150 students learned in Medresei-kukhna. In 1921 the lessons stopped.
The mausoleum Makhdumi Azam of the XVI–XVII centuries is located to the south of the old madrassah. Makhdumi Azam means “The Greatest master” and it is not a name, but a title or a nickname. It is interesting, but on the territory of Central Asia there are several complexes with the same name. They are connected to different real people, state or religious figures. The researches have to know, who was buried in Gissar fortress, although there are some versions and suppositions on this point.
One more notable local monument is a dome mosque Sangin (XII–XVI centuries). Sangin is translated as “stone”. The title of the mosque is connected to the fact that the walls are revetted from bricks till the middle of its height. The unique peculiarity of the construction is that there are four resonators on the level of under cupola constructions in the form of ceramic jugs without bottom and which are walled up in the bricks. The resonators served to improve the acoustic qualities of the interior rooms where people prayed.
One more construction on the territory of the complex is caravanserai “Khishtin” (hotel, victualling-house). Khishtin is translated as “brick”.
Rudaki mausoleum is located in the village Pandzhrud, about 60 km east of Penjikent city. Abu Abdullah Rudaki lived at the end of IX - beginning of X century, during the reign of Samanids dynasty, he was not only a great poet, but also a talented singer and musician. The mausoleum of the great poet was built in 1958.
The founder of classical Tajik poetry wrote his famous works in Dari, using Arabic alphabet. Unfortunately, we know a little about the life of the great writer, it is also unknown where he was buried. The building of the mausoleum was built of red brick, the dome is decorated with blue tiles, that was specific for architecture of ancient Central Asian constructions. The entrance to the mausoleum is opened by brick arch with massive wooden gates.
The outstanding poet, who made a great contribution not only to the Tajik poetry, but also in the eastern culture, spent the last days of his life in poverty and died in 941. Today Rudaki sculpture is one of the main decorations of Dushanbe city.
Takhti Sangin (Oxus temple)
Ancient settlement Takhti Sangin (Oxus Temple) was found during the excavations in1976. This unique structure is located in Takhti Kubad Gorge, at the confluence of the Vakhsh and Panj Rivers. According to sources, the temple was built in the V-III centuries BC.
In 1877 the treasure of more than 2,000 gold and silver coins and gold jewelry was found n the right bank of the Amu Darya River. This finding, known as the Amu Darya treasure or ("Oxus Treasure") is in the British Museum in England.
It is known that the ancient “Oxus Temple” is dedicated to the deity of the river. During the excavations there were found unique findings: image of Alexander the Great, chests of ivory, decorated with engraved patterns the collection of arrowheads, soldiers’ weapons, as well as many decorations, household items and much more. It is noteworthy that “Oxus Temple” is preserved very well up to the present day.
Today unique treasures of “Oxus Temple” can be seen in the National Museum of Antiquities, and the ruins of Takhta Sangin ancient settlement in the picturesque Takhti Kubad gorge.
Penjikent city is situated in the valley of the Zarafshan River, 68 km from the city of Samarkand and 320 kilometers from Khujand at an altitude of 900 meters above sea level. The city has many places of interest, architectural monuments, beautiful country parks on the bank of the Zarafshan River.
The city already existed at the time of the ancient Sogdiana state. The ruins of Sogd city of the same name – ancient Penjikent (Pyanjikent) are in the south-eastern outskirts of modern Penjikent. It is a unique monument of pre-Islamic culture of Central Asia.
The city was existing from 5 to 8 middle ages; the prosperity fell on the turn of the 7-8 centuries. In the 1st quarter of the 8th century Penjikent was destroyed by the Arab invaders, and in the 2nd half of the 8th century it became desolate. Numerous items of pottery, metal-working, glass making, as well as thousands of Arab and Sogdian coins made from bronze and silver were found in Penjikent. Opened in Penjikent painting (multifigured wall -adhesive murals with glue paints), clay (relief frieze) and wooden (reliefs, caryatids) sculptures are the outstanding memorials of monumental and decorative art of Sogd. In style and content the art of Penjikent is connected to the artistic culture of ancient cities and regions of Central Asia (Afrasiab, Varakhsha, Shakhristan, Balalyk -Tepe, Adjina -Tepe), Iran, Afghanistan and India.
There is a big settlement Sarazm to the West from Penjikent, it was growing in the forth and second millennium BC., demonstrating close cultural relations with early civilizations of the Middle East.
The architectural monument of the XII—XIV centuries, Mukhammad Bashoro mausoleum is located at a distance of 37 km from the city Pandzhikand in a beautiful canyon of northern foothills of the Zarafshan range. Mukhammad Bashoro mausoleum is one of the famous memorials of the Tajik architecture.
There is a small village Pandjrud at 60 km in the eastern part of Penjikent of the Zarafshan Valley. The Zarafshan Valley is a birthplace of Abu Abdullo Djafar ibn Mukhammad Rudaki, the founder of the Tajik and Persian literature, singer and musician. This place is located among high mountains.
Sarazm – first monument of World Heritage in Tajikistan. This ancient settlement (IV—II millennium B.C.) located 15 km to the West from the regional centre Penjikent on the left bank of the Zeravshan river. The name “Sarazm” origins from old Tajik word “sarizamin” (beginning of the earth).
This ancient settlement was discovered in autumn 1976 by the archeologist Abdullodjan Isakov, when one citizenship of the village Gurach, veteran of the Great Patriotic War, Ashurali Taylonov decided to tell Abdullodjan Isakov, worker of Penjikent archeological base, about the bronze axe, which was in his house for 6 years. On the place of unknown ancient monument Sarazm there were works on grading of earth. The collective farmers and local citizenships often found during the works the antique things, such as safe jugs, bronze tools, decorations and others. Under their lack of information they did not tell the historical museum about it.
Palace and cult constructions, public and dwelling buildings, which are in good condition are of great historical and cultural value. During the excavations the metallic and stone products as well as jewelries and treated sea shells were found. The destruction of the settlement concurs with the invasion of nomadic Indo-Iranian tribes on this territory.
Stable economy and a highly developed material culture of Sarazm were the characteristic features of Zaravshan center of early agricultural cultures of Central Asia.
The inhabitants of Sarazm, expanding the area of the contacts, to the middle of the IV millennium B.C. established cultural and trade links with ancient agricultural centers of South Turkmenistan, Iran, Belujistan, India and Afghanistan. Thus, the settlement Sarazm is a unique monument that reflected a variety of cultural ties and contacts of the peoples of late Stone Age and Early Bronze Age.
In 2010 by the decision of UNESCO Sarazm was included to the list of monuments of World Heritage.
Hazratishoh Masoleum in Istravshan
Hazratishoh Mausoleum is the tomb of holy man Hazrati Shokh, the cousin of the prophet Mukhammad. This sacred place is located in the old part of Istaravshan city. The complex consists of three cultic buildings: Hazratishoh Mausoleum, Hazratishoh Mosque and Khudoyor Valam Mausoleum. Each of these buildings was built at different times and has its own separate history. Construction of the mausoleum dates back to the XVIII century.
There is a spring not far from the mausoleum. People believe that the holy spring water heals all diseases. According to legend, the spring appeared here after the saint Hazratishoh was buried here. After his death there was erected a mausoleum, which later became a place of worship for believers. It is known, there used to be a square in front of the mausoleum, where were held holidays festivities, as well as cockfights.
Hazratishoh mausoleum is one of the most ancient sites in Tajikistan. Today Hazratishoh mausoleum is a brick building with the tomb (gurkhan) and the chapel (ziyarothon). The architecture of the mausoleum is quite simple; it is not adorned with a painting or tiles. The building was repeatedly restored. The archeologists excavate this place regularly, as the burials of cult complex are the real findings for scientists around the world.
Ajina Tepe near Kurgan Tyube town
The Buddhist monastery Ajina Tepe (VII-VIII century) is located in the Vakhsh valley in Tajikistan, 12 km from Kurgan-Tyube town. Ajina Tepe is translated into Russian as “Devil's Hill"or "Hill of the evil spirit”.. It was discovered by the scientist Boris Letvinsky in 1960. Much time was spent for the excavations of the monument. As Litvinsky said, the monastery Ajina Tepe tells about the history of the Vakhsh valley, as a part of the ancient country, named Baktria, later Tokharistan. The excavations allowed to understand the historical issues of this part of Asia in a different way. Buddhism appeared on the territory of Central Asia at the turn of a new era. By means of the Asian area China met with this most ancient world religion.
The monastery was composed of two square yards, surrounded with holy places, cells and corridors. In one of the yards there was a cult construction – Stupa. Rock paintings and clay statues, as well as 12-meters height figure of Buddha on his deathbed were found on Ajina Tepe. The Indian elements and local traditions of ancient Tokharistan blended in the architecture and decoration of Ajina Tepe.
The giant horizontal statue of "Buddha in nirvana", located in the eastern corridor is quite remarkable. Today it is one of the most prominent Buddhist relics in world culture. "The sleeping" giant was divided into 44 parts, was extracted from the cultural layer and transported in Dushanbe, to the restoration and conservation laboratory of the Institute of History, Archaeology and Ethnography of the Academy of Sciences of Tajikistan.
The Buddhist monastery Ajina Tepe in Tajikistan was considered the Monument of the World Heritage.
The Fann Mountains
The Fan Mountains are a popular tourist destination situated in north-west Tajikistan. The Fan Mountains area is convenient for visiting.
A paved road from Dushanbe going to the largest Pamir-Alai Lake - Lake Iskandarkul - leads to this place via the 3372m Anzob Pass. Another paved road runs from Penjikent. One more road from Khodjand runs through Istravshan (formerly Uratepa) and the 3351m Shahriston Pass. The Fan Mountains area road system includes both paved and unpaved roads.
The Fann Mountains is a country of emerald lakes, peaks beyond the clouds and ancient legends. This is a unique part of Pamir. Vivid valleys Zindan and Archamaydan, fairy beauty of Big Allo lake, surrounding by vertical rocks, the most beautiful Kulikalon, Alaudin, Marguzor lakes and legendary Iskanderkul Lake, amazing waterfalls, marvelous on their beauty the five-kilometers peaks of Chimtag, Energy, Chapdara, Big Ganza are attracting trekking amateurs and climbers from the whole world to visit these places.
Khodjand is an ancient Central Asian city and the second largest city in Tajikistan, situated in the northern part of the country on the Sirdarya River in the Ferghana Valley. The city was founded by Alexander the Great about 2500 years ago. According to the Greek sources, in 329 B.C. on the Yaksart (today’s Sirdarya) River he founded a fortress that had to be frontier of his empire. Then thanks to its good geographical location, it was actively populated and turned into big for that time city, which was known as Alexandria Eskhata. Precise location of the ancient city was unknown till the middle of the 20th century, when the scientists acknowledged that Khodjand of the 4th century B.C. and Alexandria Eskhata are identical. The scientists made also an assumption that Alexandria Eskhata was based on the territory of the city center called Archaic Khodjand, which had already existed on the left bank of the Sirdarya when army of Alexander the Great came there.
In the Middle Age a boundary between Bukhara emirate and Kokand khanate passed over Khodjand,. Thus for many decades Khodjand was an apple of discord between these states. At that time the Great Silk Road was flourishing and Khodjand, being located on the road from China to Europe, gained strategic significance as an important trade center. In 1866 it was joined to Russia and internal wars have stopped. Later there was formed Khodjand district amounting to the Uzbek SSR, but in 1929 this district and the city were handed over to the Tajik SSR. Since January, 9 1936 Khodjand used to be named Leninabad (in the name of V.I.Lenin). Under this name the city was till 1990, when its historical name Khodjent was restored.
At present the city is a big industrial and culture center of Tajikistan. Modern Khodjand is cozy, green city with numerous parks and public gardens, historical and cultural memorials. Among main sightseeing is the renowned Panchshanbe market (translated from Tajik means "Thursday" – in old days there was brisk trade), one of the largest covered markets in Central Asia.
Not far from the market is situated an architecture complex – a mosque and mausoleum of Muslikhiddin Sheikh. Unfortunately, the mausoleum is not intact: there are only several fragments of the building of the 11-12th centuries.
In the middle of the northern part of Khodjand, several decades meters from the Sirdarya River is situated a fortress of about 7-8th cc. B.C. The fortress occupied an area of 300x200m. and was surrounded by a strong wall. There were many armed attacks on the city and as result it was destroyed. In the early 18th century the fortress was partly reconstructed, and at present the Museum of archeology and fortification is situated on its territory.
Another famous site of Khujand is Arbob Palace complex (built in a traditional style, "copy of St. Peterburg Palace" during the 1950s, by famous local chief of collective farm Mr. Saidhodja Urunkhodjaev). Arbob palace (Arbob palace had its particular significance in 1992, when it was the place for the meeting of the Tajik Soviet which officially declared independence from the Soviet Union. Also, it was the site where the Tajik flag was chosen).
In the eastward direction of Khodjent is located the Kayrakkum water reservoir ("The Tajik sea"). Its name comes from the word "kayrakkum" meaning "stone desert". The "sea" is a result of stopping up the Sirdarya River by the130m long concrete dam of the Kayrakkum hydroelectric power station. The storage pool is 65 km long and from 8 to 20 km wide. Mild climate, rarely beautiful nature and mirror-like surface of the storage pool create the necessary prerequisites for development of active tourism: speed-boating, fishing, tours to the places of archeological excavations. Several attractive health centers and vacation resorts with appropriate infrastructure (among them is "The Tajik sea" tourist base) are situated on the storage pool’s coast.