Thursday, July 14, 2011

Dushanbe Diaries Day 1

I have few days in Dushanbe before I head off into the Pamirs and Afghanistan Hindu Kush, and generally during the evenings, I have nothing more to do than twiddle my sore thumb so thought of writing a series of posts, on my everyday adventure in this ancient city that has been labeled by LP as the most scenic capital city of Central Asia, which comprises of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan. And if Dushanbe is the prettiest and cleanest of all the capitals in Central Asia, then I tremble in fear what the other capitals look like. Well I don’t tremble in ignorance rather in knowledge since I have been to all of them earlier. And well, LP has been wrong on at least this count or marginally offset. Anyway this is about my first day (not night) out in Dushanbe and not a LP bashing platform so I will get on with my self-imposed rather tough task.

First for those non-initiates, I am in Dushanbe since I wish to go to Afghanistan. Now if this sounds rather roundabout and it is, then please check up Google and all things mysterious about Afghan, etc and you would realize that this is the only relatively safe passage to the Wakhan Corridor and Hindu Kush Mountains of Afghanistan. It is of some comfort for me to proclaim that long time ago (much before my 10th great grandfather was even conceived – may his soul rest in peace or in pieces wherever he might be scattered currently) a Hindu dynasty extended into the Hindu Kush and therefore it’s name. For my entire life I have dreamt of getting into Afghan and climbing there. So Dushanbe is my first step. To know more about my purpose of this trip and life in general you can read my earlier post, ‘Prelude to Madness’.

The East Air flight (which flies every Tuesday between Delhi and Dushanbe both ways and costs a whopping amount of $ 350.00 one way) got delayed by 2 hrs from Delhi for no reasons I could comprehend or supplied by the company that manages ground work for the airlines. The check in counter was literally flooded with Tajik people with bulging bags carrying only Allah knows what, since they seemed clueless. While I remained glued to one absolutely gorgeous girl whose hands were smeared with henna from her ears to I am ashamed to say more, since all her visible skin was buried under intricate designs and of course not much of her skin was visible. Thankfully her cherubic face was uncluttered and rather heavily made up. She had huge stone rings in all her fingers and her flowing dress could have hidden a baby gorilla for sure; maybe she had one beneath. Who knows and who cares! There were barely any passengers and I think the final count stood at around 55 which comprised of mostly Tajiks (heavily scented) few Indian Embassy staff, few Indians working in Tajikistan and only one tourist (yours truly). So this should tell you a bit about the tourist influx into this beautiful country, about which I am going to do something constructive.

The aircraft was really tiny, air hostess like plastic Barbie, and when I saw my seat (supposedly the widest leg space one onboard as the check-in guy had assured me) I knew I was back to my Russian days. I am a thin guy by any standards and short by Russian and Slavic standards and I felt like being stuffed within a rather dirty and smelly sack as I sank inside my seat so how can it fit a burly Tajik or Russian; was beyond me. For some insane reason I had opted for the window seat, while I always go for the aisle as it allows me to stretch my knees and walk around a bit so that they don’t hurt by constant sitting. But here I realized right away that I was stuck to that bloody seat for the rest of the journey till someone actually came and pulled me out of it.

I gingerly took off my 4 kg worth of climbing boots, which had already created quite a stir in the airport, as everyone eyed me like an alien, but I had to wear it to save on baggage, which was obviously overweight with all my climbing gear. Then I tucked my knees as quietly as I could in the front. Window did provide me some solace and the outrageous food kept my stomach growling. Both for the reasons of my seat and my unwillingness (for the first time in my life) to venture into the loo for the sake of some unpalatable adventure, I stayed within my seat forever. The airhostess though pretty like Barbie didn’t offer me a single glance, smile or words of encouragement and I enjoyed the flight like only I can. After all I am a past master in self censure, self induced masochism and all things painful and comfort-hating.

The flight landed at a dark airport, flying over few dots of lights below in the darkness therefore denying me the chance of seeing the majestic mountains below, even then my nose remained glued to the window that was obscure due to grease and grime and perhaps much remnants of the previous occupant. No wonder I was sniffling, coughing, and jerking (don’t get me wrong) for all the right reasons. The arrival hall was tinier than my mom’s tiny apartment patrolled by very stern looking and equally lost looking security staff with useless rank tabs on their shoulders. No one in uniform smiled. My passport was stamped with some syllables in Tajik to which I replied Spasebo (thanks in Russian) and exited. The bag arrived, and I grabbed a trolley and went to the X-Ray machine. Here a burly fellow asked me something in such a tone I figured he couldn’t be saying, ‘welcome to Tajikistan.’ I offered him my passport, my air ticket, my visiting card, and then my smile, but he refused them all, muttering even more menacingly. Then he pointed at my baggage check in labels and finally I understood he wanted to see my check in baggage tags. Now this is very important for all who travel here, they won’t let you take your bag out without the tags so please keep them safely and don’t let your dog or cat or kid or wife eat it on the way during the flight, since it would certainly make for a better and wholesome meal on board.

The X-Ray guy, I had noticed earlier, was asking everyone, including the pretty painted lass to open their bags (even after having been X-Rayed) and though I had nothing more illicit in my bags than the bottles of Indian Pickle, I didn’t wish to open my bags since they had been carefully wrapped and packed with all my climbing gear, food, and few items of delicate feminine nature. So as soon as my bags came out of the machine and the burly gorilla looked at me really in a mean way, I gave him the universal sign of brotherhood, which is my most dazzling and idiotic smile, which I hope would melt even Saddam’s heart (if and when I do meet him). It worked wonderfully, the fellow simply waved me through.

My first step into Tajikistan, as I exit out of the door (which is narrower than my mom’s apartment entrance), I stumble and nearly crash on ground with my trolley in complete helter skelter. The trolley ramp is so steep and broken that I wish they would remove it altogether. As of now it’s more like a mirage, with false sense of existence but not there in reality. But out of nowhere appeared a pair of white hands and like magic caught hold of the flying trolley and then refused to let it go. I looked up from my vantage point to discover a young fellow (couldn’t be more than 15) locked onto the trolley like a falcon with the looks of a vulture and babbling to me in Tajik / Russian, both of which sound identical to me, even though I did learn smattering of the latter nearly 22 years ago. But I am Indian and I understand haggling and tourist bulldozing by people outside airports and I vigorously shook my head, my shoulders and then my waist and my legs and told him in no uncertain terms that I am here with a friend and I don’t need him to hold or look over my trolley or me and I certainly don’t need a taxi. But the fellow wouldn’t let go. I don’t blame him. These people are really poor so they must do whatever they can to make ends meet. My friend Alanna was there outside with her 3 month baby boy Sam strapped with a chest harness. We got into the car and I started feeling at home; the well dug up and potholed roads and the stifling heat and the friendly smiling people around. At that hour (11 pm) the roads were mostly deserted, with few night clubs and karaoke bars open. Young men hung around, as everywhere, showing their biceps and looking for means to while away their leisure hours. After several twists and turns, since many roads are being currently dug up and rebuilt in preparation for the Tajik Independence 20th Anniversary on 9th September 2011 we reached.

That night I crashed off into the soft feather bed, humming the famous lullaby, ‘Grandma’s featherbed’ and felt like Scarlet Pimpernel. Alanna has a lovely set up though a bit chaotic perhaps with her young kid and two adorable dogs, of whom ‘Cricket’ instantly got hooked on to me for reasons I couldn’t fathom. She leapt up excitedly with her front paws around my waist every time she found me in the vicinity.

13th July, my first proper day in Dushanbe. The morning lay calm inside my cool room so when I step out around 10.30 am the blast of heat hits me like Muhammad Ali’s knockout punch. Despite my cap and climbing glasses and cold water bottle I simply dehydrated like a beluga on beach. I love walking and that is my transport choice for the day and everyday while I am here. So I exit through the alleyways and come out into the main road of Rudaki Street. Now Dushanbe (as I had already gleaned from the maps) is a city where it is nearly impossible to get lost. It is tiny by any standards, sparsely populated by Indian standards, vehicular traffic is negligible by NYC standards and the people are really friendly by any standards. Even for the fact that nothing at all is written in English, except such signs that need not be written about, and everything is in Tajik script and most people don’t speak English, even then getting lost in this lost city would be a herculean task even by my standards, and that’s exactly what I wished to do on my first day in a city, I have never been before in the proper way.

Why you can’t get lost is due to two main reasons, one is manmade and the other is nature made. Modern Dushanbe (which actually means ‘Monday’ in Tajik) built by the Russians have the same simplicity in city planning with grand but boring and monochromatic buildings thrown in for good measure wherever the architect couldn’t decide what else to erect. It’s the same story in all almost all ex Soviet states. The streets run parallel and straight with no roundabouts and Rudaki Street is the central nervous system. Just get on this street that runs through the entire length of the city and you will find your way. So wherever you are in Dushanbe, just know your destination and home with reference to Rudaki Street. The other manmade thing that is visible from anywhere in the city is the Flag Pole right next to the Presidential Palace and the Central Park. It is touted to be the tallest such pole in the world and therefore Dushanbe’s tall claim to a mini fame. A country that is so poor and disheveled, would spent rumoredly 32 million US $ on a pole that just sticks out of nowhere into the sky reaching nowhere and that no one can certainly climb, seems a useless spending of tax payer’s money. But then we see such things in the shape of elephants, useless minarets, and tombs, arches and domes in India too that is nothing more than the egoistic metaphor of an individual who couldn’t care less if that amount of money could have fed few thousands of poor families or brought health care to the villages.

So the pole is literally the guiding pole for this city. If you get lost just look up and head for the pole as the crow flies and most probably you would find a path that crows can use and do use to fly around. And come to think of it, the pole could also be a symbol of Tajik masculinity; of which they are rightfully proud. So between the streets of Rudaki and the Pole, you would find your destiny in Dushanbe. The other landmark being the mountains that forms a magnificent Eastern backdrop to the city and I could see the distant snow clad peaks, pretty to make my heart jump up in joy. I would soon be heading that way.

Alanna’s house is stone’s throw away (if you are an adept at throwing stones and breaking windows of your neighbour) from the landmark of Pedagogy Institute on (as you have guessed it) Rudaki Street and as I hit the road what really hit me hard, other than the scorching sun, are the drop dead gorgeous girls in their teens and twenties and thirties and forties. Well, I am now nearer to half a century so to me women in forties are girls, so no smirking there ok! They are fair, pretty and lovely by any standards and I am black, ugly and unpalatable by any standards so it is nice to see girls smiling at you even if in jest.

Rudaki is lined with poplars and birch trees very tall and redolent with not much green presently. The shops and hotels are nothing much to report back home. My first target is the Indian Embassy where I plan to get free tea, some information about my future travel through Tajikistan and meet the DA, even though I am not in active service anymore. Suddenly I locate an ATM but it doesn’t work. There are few scattered ATMs now on Rudaki and they work most of the time and accept all sorts of cards though there are few that do not take a Visa card. You can choose English for operation and seek Tajik Somoni (1 US $ ¬¬¬= 4.7 TJS) or US $ from an ATM though it may not cough up what you seek, just like Zen masters of China. I cross Avesto Hotel and then find the only Indo fusion eating joint in the city, Delhi (Delli) Durbar. It is garishly painted in red and orange and I have no intention of venturing indoors. There comes a modern café, named just Café Bar with blaring music to my left where few young boys loiter. I enjoy the walk as beautiful girls are nearly everywhere in all directions and wherever I look I find a thing of beauty and therefore joy forever. Men are very well shaped and built just like any Aryan race with Mediterranean features of Turkish, Greek and Romans, and this would be a delightful place for a gay since the men do display their biceps and torso through tight fitted T. The middle aged and elderly are soberly dressed though, often with skull caps (tupi). Most girls are dressed in jeans, skirts and other modern dresses though there’s a good number of them dressed in their traditional kurtas and izor with trousers underneath and matching headscarves (rumol) quite similar to the Indian traditional women’s dress of slwar and kameez. Few sport very richly decorated hats with brocade and gold thread.

Covered bus shelters are spaced out along the street and as I gather there’s bus route no 1 and 3 that ply on Rudaki and for the price of 1 TJS will drop you anywhere on the street, up or down. So you really don’t need any language, just hop in, pay the money and hop off wherever you fancy. With preparations going on for the forthcoming 20th Independence Day celebrations on 9th September in Tajik, Rudaki Street is undergoing real makeover so most of the street is closed to traffic. The trees offer me scant shade so I am looking for something when I hear the squelch of kids and discover that they are jumping in and out of a fountain, so I join them and dip my feet and head for a while and then take off again. As I progress I discover more fountains, almost everywhere once I cross the Central Park to my right. Here I get little confused (as I do in any cities) and seeing a middle aged guy, I seek guidance to the direction of the Indian Embassy. I am stumped when he addresses me in perfect English and few words in Hindi, wow, am I glad.

As it transpires he has an Indian colleague at work and just loves Indians and everything about India. He not only showed me the way but advised that if I am ever stuck in the streets of Dushanbe then the best people to ask for directions and anything else for help would be the people I would be delighted to get lost for. You got it, one must always approach the pretty lasses of Tajik for help since they go to school and are most likely to know English than their male counterparts and this suited me just right. And as the day progressed I experienced it myself. He also advised never to approach a policeman for help. He bid me goodbye by saying he loved Bollywood and one day would love to meet our superstar of yesteryears, Mithoon Chakrovarty. Now in India we might fete Amitabh Bacchhan (my mom included) but here in Central Asia (as I know from my previous trips) they simply adore Mithoon. I finally find our embassy after few more close encounters of the pretty girls kind, after all no harm asking directions to a pretty lass even when you know the way and not really lost. By the time I am admitted inside the embassy I am smiling my brightest that only gets brighter as I am greeted warmly by the receptionist. My Embassy episode is not worthy of mention here except that just like anywhere my background can open doors to any Indian Embassy anywhere in the world and I am usually offered the most warm welcome by all. So after some time and few cups of delicious chai, I leave to meet my friend Gulja, who is a German lady teaching German in Tajik for the last 4 years. I am meeting her for lunch and as she is a keen hiker and nature lover, I hope to learn more about the Pamirs and Tajik culture, etc.

We are meeting at the historic Chaykhona Rokhat teahouse that LP suggests is a must see in Dushanbe. So I stroll back on Rudaki and get into Rokhat where Gulja had already been waiting for over 40 minutes for me. Not a nice thing to do to a woman but then I am not nice all the time, even if most of you presume so! Rokhat is a grand Soviet-era Persian style Chaikhana (teahouse) which is great for people watching (as LP says) and we take a two seater table on the first floor. The ceilings are covered with fine filigree of colorful Persian mosaic mostly flowers, leaves and other twisted decorations. Not many people around though quite a few pretty young things in delectable dresses. But it is un-chivalrous to be with one woman and ogle at others so I focus on my lunch date. The well endowed waitress twaddle along, dressed in typical Tajik costume. She is heavily made up, blue eyelashes and mascara and a belly that must be sampling quite a bit of what the kitchen churns out. We order some sashlik, salad and Tajik bread and of course a big pot of green tea. My first meal outside and I don’t attempt something too adventurous, I am also carrying my own bottle of distilled water from Alanna’s house as drinking unbottled water outside is a serious health issue, though my Indian and global stomach should be able to handle anything. So from tomorrow I intend to amble across uncharted gastronomic trails and report back if I am still up and about.

Over lunch, and here I must disagree with LP, the service is prompt and served with a smile and the food is hot, delicious and the portions really large. We discuss Tajik Pamirs and other things that interest me. We discuss the Fan Mountains, of which I don’t know much and she has been there several times. Gulja asks about my global gallivanting and we compare notes from her travels and her future plans, and I advice her to the best of my abilities since nearly everywhere she dreams of traveling I have already been. We spend some time and then split. I must return to the embassy and also visit the Min of Foreign Affair Consul office to inquire about my exit visa, which is a funny situation that may never arise but if it does then I would need some divine intervention, so no harm in gathering information of it beforehand.

At the Min of FA building right opposite the overpowering statue of Shah Ismail Samani, the founder of the Samanid Dynasty of which Tajiks are descendents, I am confronted by smiling but non-English speaking security staff. After much gesturing and nodding they are able to locate an English speaking staff, and you guessed it right, a really drop dead gorgeous girl who smiles at me like an old friend (wish we were) and offers to walk me to the right office that is at some distance away. I am taken aback, this would never happen in India. So she asked me to wait for few minutes while she gets her stuff.

As I await in the lobby a beautiful, resembling a supermodel, tall girl comes up to me and in gestures indicates that she wants to come with me and while I don’t know what to say, the security people around burst into laughter. I don’t know what to make of her as she is smiling mischivously and making a certain kind of gesture with her index finger that cannot be mistaken. Such things do happen in Central Asia and I have been offered similar services in other countries too, as money is scarce and a foreigner is a good option for some dollars, but I can’t believe that it could happen right inside the front office of the Min of Foreign Affairs. I am sure the girl is having fun at my expense and I am not a fair skinned rich European either.

But she keeps up her antics and even nuzzles closer to me and I shuffle a few steps away much to the amusement of the onlookers. Then she asks me in very broken English, when I don’t respond to her gestures, that do I not find her beautiful! Now this kind of boldness in an Islamic nation (even if they are not fanatics) needs a delicate response and I am puzzled and stuck for words. So I finally gesture in equally badly broken English to allow for ambiguity, that I do find her beautiful and nice and I like the fact that she likes me too, and may be we would meet one day at a chaikhana somewhere. I have no idea where the conversation would have gone but then my pretty guide arrives right at the moment when it could have turned embarrassing and extricates me from the situation with a dazzling smile and only then do I notice her gold cap plated molars. Which only adds to her overall dazzlement.

We walk and she tells me her dream of visiting India one day. She shows me the consul office and then takes leave. As I watch her walk away and realize that she is actually headed the opposite way and had a long way to return and she had absolutely no need to walk with me this distance in this heat just to show me a place I could have eventually found on my own, do I realize that I don’t know her name or whereabouts and she doesn’t know mine and in all likelihood I would never see her again in my life. But her smile, generosity and kindness would remain with me as a symbol of humanity, Tajik hospitality and all things good for eternity. It’s only for such people that the world remains my playground and I love to travel, where you find a kind and kindred soul out of nowhere and gather a smile that you can never forget. I smile again into the sun and to an old lady selling apples and approach the consul door.

As I step across a tall gangly man emerges from nowhere and grabs my palm in a friendly firm handshake. He asks if I am Hindustani and then goes on how he loves the films and my country and wants to invite me inside a swanky building where he is the security head. His name is Parvez and you would find him next to the consul office. He is too tall to be missed and if you are Indian do look him up and enjoy a heart warming cup of tea with typical Tajik goodwill. From there I hop back to our Embassy and finally find the DA, who welcomes me profusely. Past closing time, I leave the Embassy and head back on Rudaki Street, now the sun quite low and good light for some candid photography. I cross the road and walk along the fountain lined periphery of Central Park, clicking the sun through the water droplets. People loiter around aimless, parents with kids, amorous and newly weds with big bunches of rose, old and young, and everyone out for a stroll. I love the distant mountains, hate the manmade structures and enter the arched gate of the park, which is locally called Maydani Azadi (Freedom Park).

Here too in preparation for the Independence Day, lot of digging and renovation is going on. So I follow the general flow of the people with my Nikon dangling around the neck. There are many local photographers around as well to take pictures of people for money. There are rich beds of roses, dahlias, and other purple flowers I don’t know of. I head for the large arch in the middle with fountains around, and a statue beneath the arch. The arch is beautifully decorated in Persian mosaic depicting stellar bodies and flowers. The statue is of the great poet Rudaki and he looks serenely from his stone eyes at the city with his index finger raised to the sky as if in preaching or poetry. I sit for a while around the fountain and am approached by several young boys and girls who insist on talking to me but we can’t as they don’t speak English and I no Tajik. I show them some of the pictures I had clicked. The near full moon next to Rudaki was good. I got some candid shots of people too, spoke briefly with a young fellow Mustafa who has been selling coke and pepsi in the park for ages. He chills the bottles by submerging in the fountain wells with a rope and pulls them out when demanded. Quite enterprising and jovial. I also found a couple in a cozy corner under a peach tree in very cozy composure and loved the fact that locals can and do indulge in display of affection in public places in an Islamic state.

From the Park I strolled out towards the Presidential Palace where I faced my first unpleasant encounter. By then, sun had set behind the mountains and the sky was redolent with hues of red, orange, and ochre and there were flying clouds, something that I just love to shoot, so just as I pointed my camera at the clouds a car appeared out of nowhere and a massive and ugly looking policeman jumped out with wild gestures, all because my camera was pointed in the general direction of the President’s palace. I am ex-military and uniforms or display of authorities doesn’t bother me or scare me a bit and I knew that I had nothing to be scared off either, so I explained to him and also showed him the picture, which was far too underexposed and barely caught the upper spikes of the palace fencing. Surprisingly he missed out the point or beauty of my picture and asked me to delete it right away then inspected my passport and then let me go with a warning that I shouldn’t click pictures of any buildings that flew the Tajik national flag. I continue ahead and reached the Flag Pole, the abominable symbol of Tajik freedom I suppose. Had a bit of dilemma since I was still within visual sighting of the palace, but then I hid behind a tree and looked around but couldn’t see any policemen anywhere so clicked few quick shots into the deepening twilight. Walking back I crossed the upper scale Tajikistan hotel and a solitary cat within a rose bed undecided what to do with life in general; or may be cats are like that only.

By the time I hit back Rudaki everything was in gloom but not gloomy. The bright chirpy girls were everywhere. I discovered ice cream is really cheap and mouth tingling but resisted as I am dieting. Night life is calm as day life, crossed Café bar now lit up with red and yellow lights and loud music. Then came a place that was showing a film on some musician and orchestra performance. The moon had by then sprouted atop the buildings through the deepening sky and got it too in my frame, though not in the manner I wanted as the streetlights were too bright and at only one place did I find a two-branched tree that could hide the streetlamps to an extent. Got back home around 9 pm and after a lovely meal got down with work.

In a large nutshell the following is what I learned about Dushanbe on the first day.

All the recommend LP ‘must sees’ in Dushanbe can be accomplished in one day with room to spare for your meals, siesta and evening stroll. And you don’t need any taxi, bus or other mechanical gadgets for doing so. Just walk and enjoy the scenery, the people, the cafes, the teahouses, the scant rustle and bustle and people who really don’t give you a second look or bother you at all.

People are poor but very helpful and friendly even when they don’t understand a word of what you say and vice versa. But it’s better to stay away from uniformed officials like security guards, policemen, military etc since they still sometime behave like the Soviet KGB and can seek bribe. This is something that I didn’t encounter personally but was told by someone claiming to know such things so I would treat this cautiously till I myself have a similar experience. Otherwise I am willing to vouch for the goodness and hospitality of the Tajiks.

The girls are really beautiful and will make your head turn so much in all direction that you may get dizzy and collapse on ground. They are also very friendly so if one fancies your eyes you can definitely speak to her to find directions to places you know well off. And you can definitely ask them out for a meal or tea and they will mostly take you to a cheap and good place.

Rudaki Street is like the main artery and you will find absolutely everything on this street, except museums and embassies.

It’s not a pretty city neither ugly, it just is. I don’t know how else to describe it. Water sprouts and fountains are found almost everywhere. The eating places and teahouses are aplenty and there’s even an Ecuadorian joint that I saw from outside and many Persian, Mediterranean, Turkish and Tajik places. Food is cheap, a full meal like the one I had with Gulja cost us total 34 TJS, so each shared only 17 TJS about 3.5 US $ and my tummy was really full by the end of it and we were eating at a very well known place so I guess that’s pretty much the food cost anywhere else too.

There’s no need to register in OVIR office for foreigners if you are visiting on Tourist visa. The Min of Foreign Affairs, Visa Consul office is quite near the Iran Embassy that is easily found if you reach the Samani statue at the end of Rudaki Street.

There are ATMs in many shopping areas too and they have both English and Tajik for operation. Internet cafes are also several but the ones near the Opera house are much better than the ones found on Rudaki.

Dushanbe is best tackled as an entry point to go into the Fan or Pamir mountains. It can be easily negotiated and seen within two days. If you have a local English speaking friend then life will be much easier, else learn Tajik before you arrive, and if not, like me, then just keep approaching the pretty girls, like I did and will do, which isn’t a bad price at all to pay for ignorance.

Don’t take pictures in the direction of buildings flying the national flag, even a local screamed at me for doing so.

Always carry your passport and entry immigration form as papers can be asked for anywhere by the police. Even though very open and modern in its approach, this is still an Islamic country or Sunnis and Ismailis, so be properly attired and be respectful to the religion and local customs and you will find it a very pleasant place to visit.

Last but not the least, I found the people very nice and warm hearted, even if some of the men do seem straight out of ‘Hulk’. Smile and you will be smiled at and no one at least gave me any suspicious or hostile stare at all. And as Gulja confirmed, even a single fair skinned rich woman is totally safe here and she has no hassles traveling alone late night on the streets for a walk etc.

With that I sum up my first day in Dushanbe with further adventures planned in the coming days of which I can only dream but not declare as I have no idea what or how would they shape up. Till then like the locals would say, KHAYR or ASSALOMU ALAYKUM and TO DIDANA


  1. Very nice and interesting post Satya.
    Look forward to more such.
    Got me thinking of a trip there someday to ask the girls for directions...LOL.

    Reza Beg

  2. Giggled all through your post. Can't wait for the next one: )

  3. :), Nice post Satya. A different perspective of the place, that could only be described you.