Saturday, 19 November 2011

Khujand - Last stop in Tajikistan

Yet another epic journey between main Tajik towns, via terrible roads and over mountain passes. The journey was only bearable with the knowledge that this was our last shared jeep journey on this trip. James and I were squeezed into the two seats at the back of the jeep with a third person. Various other bits of luggage were wedged in around us and a budgie in a cage was passed in for us to hold. We bounced along in the back of the jeep through the Fann Mountains. At one point the road dived into the side of a mountain. The tunnel was unlit and thick with fumes. It was several inches deep in water which concealed crater sized potholes. The air was so bad and the tunnel so long that I began to develop a headache. We began to wonder whether we were transporting a budgie for a reason. Luckily we all made it out the other side alive - including the budgie.

In Khujand we checked in to a rather politically incorrect hotel called the Leninabad Hotel. It was a crumbling Soviet building with bathrooms which were sure to be a breeding ground for Legionnaires' Disease. A more appropriate name would have been the Lenina 'Very' bad Hotel. Morten, the Danish motor biker we had met outside the Turkmen embassy in Dushanbe was also staying here.

After settling in we met with Azamov a NGO worker who James had met in Kyrgyzstan. He gave us a whistle stop tour of Khujand. Many new buildings had been opened to mark the 20th year of independence celebrations including a swimming pool. Azamov managed to get the museum opened for us. It was great to have the place to ourselves as, although small, the artefacts were much more imaginatively exhibited than the other Central Asia museums we had been to. Azamov won't let us pay for anything including the museum and an ice cream in the park, we were his guests he kept insisting.

Khujand was yet another Tajik town which resembled no other in Tajikistan. It is affluent with several universities and is located in the fertile Fergana valley. Azamov, a highly educated professional, had only been to the Tajik capital once, by train through Uzbekistan when the Uzbeks had allowed this. Now it was difficult for Tajiks to travel through Uzbekistan and the only way from the north of Tajikistan to the capital was via the potholed road we had taken.

After our whistle tour of Khujand, Azamov drove us back to his family home where we met his mother, children, wife, brother and brother's children. His mother spoke excellent English and enjoyed practising, whilst her grandchildren ran about giggling. We ate dinner together and then were introduced to the rest of the family via various DVD's filmed at family events.

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