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The tomb of poet Rudaki, Panjrud

The poet Rudaki is the founder of modern Persian. He is honoured throughout the Persian-speaking world, but especially in Tajikistan where he is one of the great figures of the past claimed by the modern state.

Rudaki was born at the village of Rudak ("Little Village") near Penjikent in the 9th century. He rose to fame as a great poet at the court of Emir Nasr of Bukhara, writing in clear simple language that became the standard of modern Persian. Legend has it that Rudaki was blind from birth (the Soviet version, of course, has him blinded by the cruel Emir). After a long career, Rudaki fell from favour. He died in poverty and was buried at Panjrud.

45km before Penjikent there is a turning to the left, from where there is a good tarmac road for 17km to Panjrud. Rudaki lies in a mausoleum built in 1956, surrounded by peaks of the Fan mountains. The simple, but elegant mausoleum with superbly carved doors, is set in well-kept formal gardens, with a small museum and superbly decorated choikbona. The poet lies under a simple marble slab, above him on the ceiling is written in Persian "Those who do not learn from experience will learn nothing from a teacher".

A guesthouse has been built nearby. There are minibuses from Penjikeni. The road continues for a further 6km to Artuch, a major base for climbing and trekking in the Fan mountains. It is a bad road and 4-wheel drive is essential.