Tajikistan to Kyrgyzstan
Dushanbe, the relaxed, leafy capital of Tajikistan, is located in Hissar Valley in the south of the country at the confluence of two rivers: Varzob and Kofarnihon. There is refreshingly little traffic along the wide tree-lined avenues. You can take a tram ride or stroll through the streets. The centre comprises one long street, crossed by a few other main streets.
Dushanbe means Monday in the Tajik language and is named so because it was once a small village with a popular Monday market. Today the city has a population of 600,000. Nowadays there are number of markets in the city, the busiest is Barakat Bazaar, selling textiles such as sequined embroidered clothing in bright colours with gold stitching and beautiful traditional 'Suzane' embroidered wall hangings. Shakhmansur is the biggest of Dushanbe's bazaars where you will find local produce such as nuts, dried and fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, spices, and bread.
The National Museum of Tajikistan is just one of several you will find in the city. There are specialist museums with collections of antiquities, musical instruments and archaeological treasures. Evidence of Dushanbe's historic past dates back over 3000 years.
Khorog is the quiet capital of the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Province (GBAO) in Tajikistan. It has a population of 28,000. At an elevation of 2,200 m (7,200 ft0 in the Pamir Mountains the town stands at the confluence of the Ghund and Panj rivers. The two rivers merge and flow as one water through the middle of the city, until reaching a delta in the Panj River on the border with Afghanistan.
Khorog is known for its beautiful poplar trees. A central town park is located at the riversides with immaculately maintained lawns and flower beds. Khorog museum contains historic and archaeological artefacts. Almost every guidebook on the area mentions the piano that was carried here by soldiers over the mountains from Osh for a general's daughter to play. The town's 100 year old botanical gardens are the second highest in the World. There is a lively bazaar in the town.
There are a number of hotels and restaurants were you can to sample some traditional Pamiri food. Typical dishes include laghman, manti, plov and other Central Asian classics, served with bread. Khorog is situated in a beautiful mountain valley along the Gunt River there are many NGO's working here, with the Aga Khan Foundation taking the lead. Near Khorog there is a weekly market where Afghans and Tajiks can meet, talk and trade.
With a population of 4000 Murghab is about the only major town in eastern Gorno-Badakhshan. It is the highest town in Tajikistan at 3,650m and is located where the Murghab River meets the Pamir Highway. The modern town was constructed during the era of Soviet rule stopping point along the Pamir Highway. The population is half Pamiri and half Kyrgyz. There is a bazaar in the town where you will see local men mingling in their white embroidered felt Kyrgyz hats. Traders operate their stalls out of metal containers.
There was an important Russian military garrison here (the Pamirsky Post) established in 1893. It was the most advanced Russian military outpost in Central Asia. An imposing statue of Lenin in the town centre remains.
In the Persain language Murghab means 'river of the birds'. Its location high on the Pamir plateau is quite stunning and around Mugab a number of tours run including trekking, wildlife watching, camel riding and visits to historic landmarks. On a clear day you will have a good view of the 7546m-high Chinese peak Muztagh Ata 100 km away in a direct line of vision.
Osh is often referred to as the Southern capital of Kyrgyzstan, it is one of the oldest known cities in Central Asia dating back over 2,500 years.
Osh city is built around the Islamic sacred 'Sulaiman Too Mountain' which rises dramatically out of the plains of the surrounding Fergana Valley. The site has long been a pilgrim tourist destination. Within the mountain you will find the National Memorial Museum 'The Silk Road' and Asaf in-Burkhia mausoleum. On the mountain's highest peak where there is a small mosque originally built by Babur in 1510 much of which was rebuilt during the late 20th century.
The City's Jayma Bazaar is one of Central Asia's best markets, with an array of Uzbek, Kyrgyz and Tajik wares. Goods on sale include kalpaks (the Kyrgyz national felt hat), knives, horseshoes (forged by a back smith within the bazaar), Chinese tea sets and an array of seasonal fruit and vegetables. It stretches for about 1km along the west side of the Ak-Buura River, and crosses it in several places.
Be sure to visit a traditional tea house (Chaihana) and try authentic traditional Uzbek and Asian dishes oftandirnaya samsa and plov made with red rice (grown on red clay soil) and yellow carrots.