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The Fortress of Dewashtich

Well worth a small detour are the villages and forts associated particularly with Dewashtich, the last leader of the Sogdians. 20km from Aini is a turning to the left, and the village of Khairobad is 2km from the main road.

There is a reasonable road of 9km up to the village of Kum. There are buses to Kum from Aini on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. On a hill above the village is the Sogdian fortress of Kum. This was the scene of a battle between the Sogdians and the Arabs in AD 722. It is on an outcrop, easily reached. There are substantial remains of the mud brick buildings, with barrel roofs. The views from the site down the Zarafshan valley are magnificent.
Also near Khairobad is the fortress of Mount Mugh. This commands a view over a bend in the river, with steep hillsides right down to the riverbank. This was the scene of the last stand of the Sogdian king, Dewashtich, against the Arabs in the eighth century.

To reach the fort it is advisable to take a guide from the village; a scramble is required. Take the track from Khairobad going up from the village on the left. This runs above the river, and follow the path until it drops down to the riverbank. Move up rather indeterminate paths to a ridge, where an irrigation channel crosses it. Walk down the right of the ridge to the fortress. Once there you will understand why Dewashtich took his last stand here. An alternative route is to leave the road at a pylon,  cross the hedge, and follow the course of the irrigation channel, which is now dry, to the junction with the ridge. This is easier, but you need a head for heights, as there is a vertical drop below the channel. Local people believe Dewastich built this channel.
Little would have been known about Dewashtich, but for a chance find in 1932 by a shepherd at this site of a basket of 8th century documents on leather and bone of correspondence of Dewashtich. This has formed a very important understanding of his life and times.

Another link with Dewashtich, and one of the most attractive villages in the Zarafshan valley is Madm. Returning to the main road from Khairobad, there is a road to the left after 5km. The road crosses a bridge and up a hill for 6km to the village of Madm at 2,100m. The village is built of substantial two storey mud brick buildings, surrounded by orchards and fields.

The approach to the fortress would have been easily defended, and there are the remains of look out posts on the surrounding hills. To reach the fortress, there is a good track up from the village. After 500m there is a memorial, with a gumbaz, to a local deputy in Parliament killed in the civil war of 1992-1997. There are lines from the poet Rumi on a stone plaque. The fortress is a further 500m along the track. There are the remains with some brickwork, and the foundations of houses excavated by Russian archaeologists. The houses were two storey buildings, with carved pillars. There are views of the mountains and the village below. It is more open than many sites, and the mountains feel less overpowering. The Sogdians chose a special site here. On the mountain sides high above the village can be signs of lalmi, fields with no irrigation, which relied on rainfall. These are now largely abandoned in Tajikistan, because there are alternative supplies of food, but in the past these fields would have provided vital extra crops. Such fields are still used in Afghanistan, and can be seen in the Pamirs from the road along the Pyanj riverbank going from Darvaz to Khorog.