Friday, May 26, 2006

Tajikistan

Don't have much to say for a change. The changes here are crazy as mom already pointed out. The biggest for me is the sudden appearance of women. After seeing almost none for the last 8 months (they were either very covered or very rare on the streets) their presence is a little unnerving. They aren't particularly attractive but there is enough Russian influence again that there is a little flesh showing and I am starting to think I was better off in Pakistan.......
What do I say about Tajikistan? I suppose anything I want as you've probably never heard of it. It was the poorest, least educated and most isolated and ignored of the soviet republics and quickly fell into civil war through the 90s. Most of the people are Islamic but it is not an islamic state (the civil war was a failed attempt at an Islamic fundamentalist takeover). There has been almost no tourism here in the last 100 years or so and aside from the spectacular mountain scenery, there is very little to see or do. We hung around Dushanbe for a few days then went north through the Fan mountains to the more prosperous and less ravaged north. One terrible road over 2 passes connects the north and south of the country so for half of the year they are isolated. We stayed in a small town, Istaravshan, now 2500 years old and once visited by Alexander the Great. The old town had unbelievably clean and quiet streets. Some local kids quickly latched onto us and acted as guides for a few hours to practice their english and show us around. It was all good fun. Like in Kyrgyzstan, long-distance taxis are the only means of transport and it is expensive there in general as there is very little tourist infrastructure. From there it was on to Tashkent, Uzbekistan where we are now, once again trying to sort out our final set of visas.

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