Khujand: The Second Unofficial Capital of Tajikistan
Русская версия Formally, Khujand has never been a Tadjik capital. However, due to its proximity to Uzbekistan, size, and economic success (compared to Dushanbe), Khujand had a leading role in Tajik Soviet politics. Called Leninabad in the Soviet times, Khudjand supplied the Tajik government with most of the high officials, which gave it the status of tacit domineering. By the way, Khujand still has the largest Tajik monument to Lenin, made of titan.
Declared independent, Tajik government faced the clans from other regions who tried to change the distribution of roles in governing the country; the civil war started. Even though the peace treaty was finally signed in Khujand, the news about protests in the city reappear time after time. Khujand has too complicated relations both with the capital and with neighboring Uzbekistan.
We started for Khujand by hitchhiking from Tashkent Korean museum, situated in the outskirts of Tashkent. The head of the museum brought us to the highway leading to the border checkpoint and asked the policeman who was on duty there to stop a car for us. After 10 minutes we were in the car of a mixed Uzbek and Tajik family. The Uzbek woman married to a Tajik was coming back from Tashkent, where she had been sorting out her documents, reapplying for the Tajik visa. Despite the common border, the relationship between the countries is very complicated, which results in terrible bureaucracy their citizens have to experience.
The border checkpoint between Uzbekistan and Tajikistan was empty, so we crossed it quite fast. At the exit, we found a travelling companion and a taxi driver who agreed to drive us to Tajikistan for a huge amount of money. We had heard about the high prices for the transport in Tajikistan, but it was not pleasant to experience them. According to the Internet, there are marshrutkas from the border to Khujand, but we did not see any. In Khujand, we checked in the hotel Shark at the market, perhaps, the most terrible we’ve ever seen (even worse than Indian hotel in Tbilisi). They did not seem to change the linen there at all; there was one common toilet for men and women with several holes in the ground. The same room had a barrel with water “for showering”. The doors inside the rooms did not close, and mainly the land sailors and market merchants lived here. This was also the cheapest hotel ever – we paid about 5 euros for 2 people. Nearby, there was a fruit market and a canteen, both very good.
We tried to buy a sim-card, but it turned out that we needed a registration for that. Our Hilton certainly could not make it. After taking some pictures of the city, we went to sleep accompanied with the national music and the bazaar noises coming from the windows. It was terribly hot.
The next morning we visited the mentioned famous Lenin monument (you may reach it by marshrutka №27). It had been removed from the main square to have the monument to emir Isma’il Somoni installed there; the national mythology and personality cult of the current Tajik president are constructed on the basis of memory about Somoni; the figure of Timur (Tamerlane) is used in the similar way in Uzbekistan. Somoni from marshrutka window:
Since we have already shown Lenin, we will show the marshrutka from inside instead.
This marshrutka №37 brought us to another sight of Khujand – the airplane cafe on the bank of the Syr Darya river.
Unexpectedly, we also found a Roman (?) she-wolf at the Syr Darya.
The Khujand fortress founded in VI—V centuries BC now a houses a very boring museum of Khujand and Tajik history and culture (entrance fee – 5 somonis).
Outside of Khujand there is a dirty beach (the water is clean though).
This was enough for Khujand and we started for the real capital – Dushanbe. Since there is almost no official transport in Dushanbe, we had to go to the special place near the old bus station first (you may reach it by marshrutka №30) to catch a shared taxi to the capital there. This place always has cars waiting for passengers to Dushanbe. After some bargaining, we agreed upon 50 somonis per person (a local paid 60, so we were very proud of ourselves). The highway to Dushanbe is excellent and opens up the views much more interesting than Khujand. On the way, you may buy local products in the villages, eat in chaikhanas, or bribe a policeman to avoid any annoying questions.