After several days of bush camping, we rolled into Dushanbe – the capital of Tajikistan. To be honest, after wandering and exploring for 2 days, there doesn’t seem to be much to Dushanbe, it’s more like a very large town than a capital city.
Everywhere you look in Tajikistan, you see President Emomali Rahmon looking back at you. Just about every billboard and large sign in the country has him posing in front of something, and Dushanbe was no exception. He has been in power for 23 years and, according to a couple of Tajiks we spoke to, was doing a pretty good job.
The main street into what one can only assume is the centre of the city is a lovely tree-lined affair that takes you past a few very cool monuments, including the statue of Ismail Samani in the impressive Freedom Square.
A little further on we found this statue labeled PYAAKH (or its equivalent in Cyrillic). Even after a Google search I have no idea who this guy is, but I loved his intricately detailed coat, and the mosaiced backdrop of astronomical objects and flora.
As always, I took a trip to the local bazaar to stock up on fruit and nuts for the road and really loved this display of spices. The guy tried to charge me 10 Somoni for the photo (AUD$1.60), so when I showed him I was going to delete rather than pay the price, he indicated not to worry about it. Opportunist!
I have never seen so much velvet in all my life as what I saw being worn around Dushanbe by the local women, who either wore 2-piece outfits (pants under a loose tunic) made out of that material, or other equally lairy options. The variety of fabric at the market was enormous, though I have to say that I only found one or two pieces that actually appealed to me.
You could buy ~3m of fabric for USD$10 (or a little more if it had sequins in it), then take it around the corner for a seamstress to whip it up into the local costume.
For me, the highlight of the market trip was finding an out-the-back “restaurant” (“eatery” may be a more apt description), where I pointed to what a couple of other ladies were having for lunch to order the same thing. Turns out I’d ordered Fatir Shurbo – which is typically Tajik, and consists of broken up flat bread (Fatir) with chickpeas, meat, potatoes and onions. Very, very tasty, and even though I was trying not to eat too many carbs, I failed – it was so delicious. Bernice an I almost finished the entire plate between us!
The other highlight of my visit to Dushanbe was a play/concert/dance performance celebrating 9th May Victory Day at the Opera and Ballet Theatre.
This is a particularly important day for the ex-Soviet Union – commemorating their victory over Nazi Germany in the Great Patriotic War, and 10 Somoni (~AUD$1.60) bought a ticket to the show (this country is crazy-cheap!).
Although I couldn’t understand a word they said/sang (except “nyet” and “da” – I have those down), it was a fascinating 1.5 hours. The singing was superb, and there was one song performed over the top of imagery of the deprivations and deaths of the prisoners of war that was particularly moving. Everybody stood for this song, and I got physically hauled out of my seat by the person behind me to make sure that I followed suit. I would have done so anyway once I saw everyone else standing, but he was bloody quick off the mark about it!
Right at the end they helped this little old lady up onto the stage. I can only assume that she was a famous singer before or during the war and involved in the war in some way, as she sang a few verses of a song and they showered her with flowers and other gifts once she was done.
The other reason I wanted to go to the concert was to actually see inside this beautiful building. And it was spectacular! I managed to get some photos before the turned all the lights off to get us out as quickly as possible!
Had a great couple of days in Dushanbe, though I am still very confused about where all the shops and city infrastructure was…