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Tajikistan

On an ancient silk road

Tajikistan is a country in Central Asia surrounded by Afghanistan, China, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. It’s known for its rugged mountains making it a popular destination for hiking and climbing. The Fann Mountains, near the national capital Dushanbe have snow-capped peaks that rise over 5,000 meters. But all of Tajikistan is a mountainous region with the Trans-Alay Range in the north and the Pamirs to the southeast.

The Tajik people came under Russian rule in the 1860s and 1870s, but Russia's hold on Central Asia weakened following the Revolution of 1917. Bands of indigenous guerrillas (called "basmachi") fiercely contested Bolshevik control of the area, which was not fully reestablished until 1925. Tajikistan was first created as an autonomous republic within Uzbekistan in 1924, but the USSR designated Tajikistan a separate republic in 1929 and transferred to it much of present-day Sughd province. Ethnic Uzbeks form a substantial minority in Tajikistan, and ethnic Tajiks an even larger minority in Uzbekistan. Tajikistan became independent in 1991 following the breakup of the Soviet Union, and experienced a civil war between regional factions from 1992 to 1997.

The majority of the people live on an average daily income of about US$1.00 making it one of the poorest countries in Central Asia. Since the collapse of former Soviet Union, Tajikistan has become a backwater, unable to pay its way in the modern world and about a quarter of the male population works in Russia.  Fortunately the land produces and abundance of food, but if you're going there, forget modern luxuries.

You'll find the people hospitable,  rough dusty roads, unreliable vehicles and new infrastructure being built by China and Iran.  As well as high mountains, there are great lakes like Iskanderkul (Alexander),  wolves, bears and other wildlife.

In Tajikistan our country will fight the Islamic State with colours, clothes and dance' said Ameneh Mahdis. Clothing factories in Tajikistan are churning out brightly coloured national dresses amid a surge in sales, and it's not just because of the arrival of spring. An increasing number of female officials, teachers and students have been wearing the Atlas and other traditional dresses following a recommendation by the Central Asian country's government.

"The Atlas will never go out of fashion," said Nasiba Anvarova, who owns a dress boutique in the capital Dushanbe, referring to a popular, dye-streaked style of dress." Any Tajik bride should have several of these dresses in her wardrobe," The campaign reached its peak last month during the spring Nowruz festival in Tursunzoda, a town west of Dushanbe, where the country celebrated its Persian heritage in a vibrant display of indigenous fashion.

The authorities have campaigned against Arab-style head and face coverings like the hijab as part of a crackdown that has also included forced beard shavings.

The government claims that over a thousand Tajiks have joined the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, and points to "foreign" Islamic clothing as "being a sign of radicalisation", said Edward Lemon, a researcher at the Harriman Institute of Columbia University in New York. Tajikistan is not alone in the region taking aim at Islamic dress. In neighbouring Kyrgyzstan, President Almazbek Atambayev endorsed a series of controversial banners last year that depicted women in traditional Kyrgyz dress opposite women wearing dark niqab veils. ~ Ari Murad

The capital city: Dushanbe was built to plan in Russian style and is considered to be one of the best central Asian cities.

The historic city: Khujand was formerly called Alexandria Eschate founded by Alexander the Greek who plundered the region.

Language: while Tajik is the official language, Russian is widely used in government and business, and different ethnic groups speak Uzbek, Kyrgyz, and Pashto.

Health and safety:  Tourism, health and transport infrastructure is poor and travel requires careful planning. If you’re considering travel to the GBAO you should contact the Embassy of Tajikistan for up to date information on whether permits are being issued. Avoid off-road areas immediately adjoining the Afghan, Uzbek and Kyrgyz borders, which may be mined. Tips (bribes) may smooth your way.

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