// MY NAME IS DANIELAnd after years of dreaming I've sold everything I own and set off on the open road. I've made this site as a sort of photo journal of my travels. The map shows where I've been (red), where I've stayed a month or more (yellow), and where I plan to go (white). And so, armed with little more than a backpack, a camera, and a dream, I now take the road less traveled by. So it goes.
DUSHANBE Central Asia in general, and Tajikistan in particular, is a fascinating land, caught between Asia and Europe, the true crossroads of many great civilizations and as former Soviet Republics there's the Soviet influence as well. Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, simply means 'Monday' in Tajik, apparently because when it was just a tiny village there was a popular market here on Mondays. The Soviets renamed it Stalinabad in 1929 though named it back in 1961. Tajikistan became an independent country in 1991 when the Soviet Union dissolved and a civil war among local factions ensued almost immediately afterwards and lasted for six years. Like many of its neighbors, Tajikistan has been ruled by the same president (dictator) for more than 20 years now.
THE FANN MOUNTAINS While still in Uzbekistan, I had contacted a local community-based tourism organization in Tajikistan who put me in contact with a local family I could stay with in Panjakent. The family picked me up from the Uzbek-Tajik border. The family knew of another family high in the Fann Mountains, in a region known as the Seven Lakes. You can see this family, a very traditional mountain family, in the final photos. There was a German and Israeli staying with the family already when I arrived, and we spent a few days hiking between the villages. You can see the photos below. This is without a doubt one of the most beautiful places I've ever been, and while the locals didn't speak English, they were unbelievably hospitable.
PANJAKENT I stayed with stayed with a local family here. You can see a photo of the family and their house below, which had a courtyard garden, in the last few photos. As I understood it, the father and grandfather had both been KGB agents under the USSR but after independence the intelligence services became so corrupt they left to do tourism. Panjakent is an ancient city that was home to a pre-Islamic Persian peoples known as the Sogdians (Tajik is, in fact, very closely related to Persian). The original name of the city was Panchekanth, and mentions of it go back as far as the 6th Century BC. There is mural evidence that people were Shaivites, worshipers of the Vedic god Shiva, though Zoroastrianism was the main religion at the time. In the 700s AD Arab Muslims conquered the city and began a process of Islamization. Today it's a quite colorful little market town at the edge of the mountains.
SARAZM At the outskirts of Panjakent, just 15km from town, are the ruins of an even older city, Sarazm. In fact, Sarazm dates back to between 4000 and 3000 BC, at the start of the Bronze Age, and marks the oldest agricultural society discovered in Central Asia thus far. The religious beliefs of the people here are unknown but they had fire alters, which you can see below. In 2010 the site was made the first World Heritage Site in Tajikistan.
KHUJAND When it was finally time to leave Tajikistan and return to Kyrgyzstan, I took a shared taxi several hours north through the mountains to a city called Khujand. Khujand is one of the oldest cities in Central Asia, nearly 2500 years old, and was a major stop on the Silk Road connecting the East and the West. Alexander the Great built a settlement here called Alexandria Eschate in 329 BC, which translates to "Alexander the Furthest" and it was indeed the furthest settlement the Greeks ever built. From here I caught another shared taxi across the border into Kyrgyzstan.