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Khoja Mumin

8km from Qurbonshahid is the town of Vose, named after a local hero who rose against the Emir of Bukhara in the nineteenth century. On the right is what looks like an average mountain, but with many white streaks on the hillsides. This is Khoja Mumin, a mountain made entirely of salt. It has been estimated that it contains 50-60 billion tons of salt. The salt is washed down in the streams, collected in settling ponds at a works, and distributed within Tajikistan and neighbouring Central Asian states.

On his travels Marco Polo describes a mountain where "salt is so much, that it will be enough to the whole world up to Doomsday". Local people believe Khoja Mumin is this mountain. Geologists estimate there are between 50 and 60 million tons of salt here, so perhaps Marco Polo was right.

To reach the salt works, and the paths up the mountain, follow the road to Kulob leaving the town, take a right turn by a garage with blue signs, opposite a cotton ginnery, and continue for 6km to the salt works.

There is a network of paths on the mountain and there are good views over the surrounding plains. It is claimed there are 350 metre caves in the salt, which produce musical sounds generated by the wind passing salt stalactites hanging in the entrances to the caves. They may be there, but we cannot confirm.

The topography of the mountain is confusing, and it would be wise to take a guide. The best time to visit is April or May, when the flowers are blooming, and it is not too hot, or in the autumn. It is essential to take plenty of water, as all the streams, as might be expected, are saltier than seawater.