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Khujand Tour

View Central Asia 2019 on Bob Brink's travel map.

May 16

Our guides have tried very hard to cram thousands of years of Central Asian history into our brains, a history that goes back to BC, through phases of being attacked by various waves of invaders, with interludes of peace and great advancements in the arts and sciences, the changes from Zoroastrianism to Islam, being part of the Soviet Union and finally dealing with the issues of becoming newly independent states. It is a lot to take in.

Khujand’s history goes back about 2,500 years, originally built by one great, Cyrus the Great who created the first Persian empire, and then rebuilt by another great, Alexander. He called the place Alexandria Eschate or Alexandria the Furthest, as being the furthest away. Khujand is situated in on the Syr Darya river on the eastern side of Central Asia’s major agricultural area, the Fergana Valley. This location made it a major hub on the Great Silk Road.

Bek would try very hard to teach us some more of that history today.

I was first out for breakfast thanks to being awake way too early. I felt terrible. I definitely have a cold, and it seems like it is going to be a bad one. That is not what one wants anytime, but it is especially annoying on a long trip. There is no staying in bed all day.

Begaim was waiting on the steps and led me down to our breakfast room. The buffet did not have brewed coffee, only Nescafe, so Begaim went to work with her press. As usual I passed on most things at the buffet, only eating some crepes with local honey.

We loaded up the vans. Seating was not important since we were only going into town. We passed on old factory. It was huge. Bek told us that only a small part of it is still in use. Khujand’s industries have included silk, clothing and footwear, and food processing.

That led to a story about Soviet manufacturing. Their vehicles were solid. That is why many are still in use. They might not have been made for comfort, but they were built to last. Bek told us about the time that Japan bought lots of tractors. That seemed like a fantastic validation of their tractors. But then the Japanese melted them down for the steel.

Our first stop for the day was at the Shaikh Maslihaddin Mosque and Mausoleum complex, part of which dates from the 13th century. The minaret is from the 19th century. There are two places of worship. One is new. There other one is under renovation.

We found a small painting crew in action. The supervisor was all worn out from his efforts.


The carved doors are beautiful.

The place is quite popular with local people and the many pigeons.

From there we walked across to the Panjshanbe Bazaar. I could see why Begaim and Bek were keen to have us move quickly through the little market in Panjakent. This place is much bigger. We went up to the second floor. I was following Bek and Begaim and a couple of folks from the group. I saw a view of the mosque through the doorway of a shop. I raised my camera to take a quick shot but then realized that I was being a bit rude, so stopped to say hello. The men said that I should go to the other side of the shop to take the photo, that the view was better from the balcony. I stayed to chat for a couple of minutes.

I had now lost my group. Free again! It was not quite a crazy as my last solo tour, but I did meet many people and had lots of fun.

Before lunch, based on how tired and sick I felt, I expected that I was going to take the option of going back to the hotel in the afternoon. But Bek ordered me a cappuccino. I then felt better. Really, it helps, there is important stuff in there. He then announced a plan that included an afternoon break at a coffee shop. More coffee! It was kind of assumed that everyone would stay in town until after supper. There was no asking if anyone wanted to go back to the hotel. With my newfound energy and the promise of another coffee, I decided that I would just go with the plan.

Our first stop after lunch was the Arbob Palace. This place is kind of like the Navruz Palace in Dushanbe. It is a remarkably beautiful place but just seems so out of place. The craftsmanship is incredible, even though much of was done by voluntary labour (the cynic in me has to question the voluntary). Bek said that the work has not been refreshed or renovated since its construction, showing the quality of the original work.

It was built between 1951 and 1956 on a collective farm. It was the inspiration of the head of the farm, Urukhojaev, who was a large man, both in size and in character and was a favorite of Stalin, which helped with the funding. It was built to showcase the great success of the Soviet system.


There were some interesting photographs in the museum, including some of the voluntary (that word again) construction of irrigation canals and some of Urukhojaev.

There is a big difference between the experiences of the Tajiks with Stalinization and those of the Kazaks and Kyrgyzs when they were forced to move to collective farms. The latter two were nomads, not farmers. All their animals died when they were moved to one place. Over 2 million people died during the Kazak forced collectivisation. The Tajiks were already farmers, so would have fared better, although I doubt that it was all as wonderful as the little museum at the palace would have you believe.

The building has been the site of some significant events in recent Tajik history, including the first meeting of the Tajik Soviet when they declared independence as well as the peace conferences following the Tajik civil war.

From there we carried on to our coffee break. We went to a Tajik coffee chain (Tajik Starbucks?). It was great to have a second coffee in a few hours. That and another Tylenol was keeping me going.

From the great palace built by Stalin’s buddy, we went on to find Lenin. He was moved in 2011 from a very prominent place to a somewhat desolate spot with a view of Soviet style apartment blocks and a little amusement park. The move took place at night with police protection. There were still enough supporters of the old system that the authorities were concerned about their reaction.


There is also a memorial to soldiers from the war in Afghanistan. Tajiks have more in common with Afghans than Russians, so Tajik soldiers were not happy to be engaged in fighting the Afghans. They were used as interpreters, but also were ordered to carry out attacks. Bek said that they would fire their rounds into the ground and then come back to report on the number that they had killed.


Bek said the area is know as the graveyard of Russian monuments.

From there we went across to where Lenin used to live but where there is a now a huge statue of the Tajik hero, Ismail Somoni, the 9th century ruler of the Saminid dynasty.

We had seen a cable car that crossed over the river and all of us wanted to go for a ride. Unfortunately, it would not be running for a couple of hours. I met two brothers and had my photo taken with them. There were two young men wearing their school uniforms. They spoke great English but asked if there were any German speakers so that they could practice their German. Yes, we had a few people who speak German.



We were then given a quick ride to the river. There was a line of busts of the great historic leaders of the Tajik people. A couple of them were women.

We walked along a beautiful promenade to what I think was the Mausoleum for Kamol Khujandi. a 14th century Persian Sufi and poet.


When I got closer, a young woman ran out and asked for a selfie. She and her friend then had a selfie with Lynley. I got a photo of my new friends on a bench.


There were a couple gazebos and some ruins of the old fortifications.


We were headed to the Museum of Archeology and Fortification. My young friends were walking in front of us. At one point my new friend turned around and blew me a kiss. What to make of that? I am too old to take it as more than a really sweet gesture. I love Tajikistan.

The fortifications were part of a 10th century citadel. It is also the site of Alexander’s original settlement. There were some interesting things in the museum. There are murals in the basement including one showing the wedding of Alexander to his Tajik bride. He also encouraged his men to take local brides.

There is a large statue of Timur Malik in the foyer. He was a local leader who stood up against Genghis Kahn in the 13th century. We had already heard similar stories. Genghis always won in the end.


We were almost ready for dinner. The restaurant was just across from the museum. We sat outside and were served our usual of lamb and chicken. A young balloon salesman stopped by. He sold two.


Afterwards Bek and our senior driver, Sino, made speeches. We were invited back to do the Pamir Highway. It is tempting.

We had that thirty-minute drive back to the hotel. I think I might have said that I did not like going out to this hotel. One thing that we lost (besides thirty minutes each way) was the chance to walk back to our hotel. Some of my best nights on the trip have been when we walked back to our hotels after dinner.

As soon as we got back, we had our meeting to discuss our pooled tips. The others were likely to stay for a drink. I was not up to it.

Once that was finished, I retreated to my room. I talked to Po and then went to war with the flies. There were more now than yesterday. I took my New Yorker magazine and went after them. Every time I thought that I was done, another fly would buzz me. So ended my last night in Tajikistan.

But I do love Tajikistan, just not this hotel.

Tomorrow we will head off to Uzbekistan.

Posted by Bob Brink 15:24 Archived in Tajikistan Tagged tajikistan central_asia kalpak_travel khujand

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A shame about the hotel but interesting to see the renovation work in progress, and the locals seem really friendly. The architecture here looks to me more like Uzbekistan than the other 'stans yo were in earlier in your trip - is that the case?

by ToonSarah

Yes. Khujand is part of the Fergana Valley so has been a farming area. The settled farming areas were the places to adopt Islam, much more than the nomadic areas. And remember the connection to Samarkand and Bukhara. I think I am keeping my history lessons straight!

by Bob Brink

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