Cities & Towns & Places
Though independent Tajikistan is a young republic, gaining independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, its historical roots are deep and rich. Standing at the crossroads between east and west, north and south, important arteries of the Silk Road crossed its territory. Modern Tajikistan was once part of the Achaemenid Empire, and was occupied briefly by Alexander the Great as the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom in the 4th century bc. It also formed part of the Samanid Empire in the 10th century ad (from which the roots of the current Tajik republic originate), was attacked by Mongol hordes in the 14th century and subsequently came under Persian and later Bukharan rule before playing host to some of the most famous incidents of the Great Game. It was later absorbed into the expanding Russian Empire and, in 1929, became part of the USSR. Today, Tajikistan blends all of these historical elements into a unique and fascinating cultural identity that is readily accessible to the visitor in the bazaars of Dushanbe, the mosques of Istaravshan, the remote rural villages where some still speak Sogdian (the language of Alexander the Great) and in Tajik handicrafts, artwork, literature and poetry.
If the stunning mountain scenery and wealth of history have an immediate impact on the visitor, it is the warmth of the Tajik people that never fails to leave a lasting impression. It is difficult to walk through a village without being offered tea and a selection of dried fruits, nuts, biscuits or sweets by welcoming and gracious locals. You will be overwhelmed by the generosity of the Tajiks - the old etiquette of the honoured guest is alive and well.
Should the combination of remarkable countryside, fascinating history and lavish hospitality not be enough to entice you, then perhaps the fact that Tajikistan enjoys more than 300 days of sunshine each year might. There has never been a better time than now to visit Tajikistan and experience everything this vibrant country has to offer to its visitors, guests and friends.
by Robert Jeremy Ord Smith, British Ambassador to Tajikistan