Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan
Русская версия Dushanbe is a young city, officially founded in 1925; according to Wikipedia, before 1929, only the walking paths led to this capital. Despite the title of the capital, Dushanbe, moreover, has been politically competing with Khujand for quite a while. In addition, it is not so easy to reach the capital from other cities or countries: the local transport is in decline (for instance, railroads almost do not function) and one has to travel in Tajikistan by private cars mainly. But visiting Dushanbe is still worth all the efforts: in spite of the Civil War and many other crucial changes as well as the cult of the president personality so obvious in the capital, the city is, perhaps, the most Soviet of all Central Asian capitals: time as if stopped here.
Getting here from Khujand we were immediately surprised by the system of local transport. There are practically no buses of trolleybuses in Dushanbe, only marshrutkas and taxis; the private cars turn into taxis as soon as its driver puts the checkers on top of his car. If you think of this as public transport, the prices are a bit high; thinking of it as a taxi makes it much cheaper.
In Dushanbe we were staying with a couchsurfer, her wonderful mother Luba, to be precise.
Having arranged the Pamir visitor permit, we could finally go and look around the sights of Dushanbe. We started with the walk around the city center. In the city, it is interesting to see Aini square, Opera theatre, Vatan cinema, Soviet monuments, Lenin street and square; it is also said that one should try oshi pulod and lagman in Rohat restaurant (Rudaki, 84) near the Presidential Palace. Among the places we did not visit, were Aga Khan center, Chekhov street (it must have interesting numbers on its houses), the old and the new national libraries, the largest chaikhana (restaurant) situated at Komsomol lake, and the Shakhmasur market.
Dushanbe is mainly 1-2 floor city, although the newest architecture is now competing the Soviet.
Many places in the city – from the placards to the presidential palace remind of Emomali Rahmon personality cult.
Even Tajik National museum belongs to “the presidential apparatus”. The locals also try not to speak out too bravely about him.
In Dushanbe, we mostly like the amusement park as if from our childhood, situated at the Komsomol lake. Shooting ranges, merry-go-rounds, and even an autodrome!
Komsomol lake is quite dirty, that is why it is much less impressive.
Here, one can also visit a zoo.
Having walked around the city, we decided to go to the famous Nurek hydro power plant. To get there, we took marshrutka 18 (the driver knows at which crossroads to drop you). Then some “businessmen“ we tried to hitchhike with offered us the price comparable to the price for the trip to Pamir. In the end, a young man agreed to give us a free ride to Nurek city center, but finally drove us directly to the station. Such incongruities are constant in Central Asia: while one tries to cheat you, the other will do everything for free and feed you on top of that.
Finally, we saw the station in its full power. We reached it at around 5 PM, when the water was being drained. Some write that this was the tallest dam in the world until 2013.
By the way, many travelling resources write that it is not possible to get inside the station, but, apparently, it is. At the entrance, they said one may get a permit, in advance though. In addition, the driver, who was giving us a ride back turned out to be the worker at the station and told that he or his son-in-law would have organized a pass for us without any permits, for 100 somonis only. The funny thing happened with this driver too: on the way he occasionally knocked a small bird. The driver was very happy, stopped and picked it up; he said that this particular kind of bird is very good for pilau. So glad about his prey, he invited us to his house for the bird pilau, but we could not deviate the schedule of our trip which we had planned so carefully. The next morning we were supposed to go from Dushanbe to Pamir.