On the Road with Hugh Philpott, HM Ambassador Tajikistan (Part II)

On the Road with Hugh Philpott, HM Ambassador Tajikistan (Part II)
Oct 30, 2016
By Greg Stephenson

Now to the north of the mountain range dividing the Soghd Region from Dushanbe, I was reminded that I was still missing lunch. On cue Umar pointed out an hotel – a somewhat loose description – called 'Farrukh'. We stopped and soon found an empty covered 'Kot' or 'Tapchan' (a sort of large square day-bed upon which to sit cross-legged and eat) among those scattered in the adjoining valley. Clever fellow that he is, Umar had phoned ahead and ordered mutton tandoor for us. Who knew that you could make reservations at remote mountainside eateries in Tajikistan? When it came this splendid meal consisted of what I would describe as pulled smoked mutton, with wild green herb salad and fresh 'non' (wheel shaped bread) and 'chakha' (a sort of rancid yoghurt). The combination was just what we needed and is perfect all washed down with copious amounts of freshly brewed green tea.

Fortified by our lunch we set out on the last leg of our day one journey. Since we were already in Soghd province, it was not far to Khujand the main city and one of the often overlooked cities of the old Silk Road. In Khujand we checked into the Grand Hotel, which in the time I have been visiting has improved immensely. The rooms are ample in size, the bathrooms good and the food wholesome and plentiful. It sits right in the centre of town near the main theatre and new museum. We would stay here for three nights as I had a number of engagements and bits of business to which to attend.

After a busy day on the Thursday, I had promised myself a free afternoon in Khujand on the Friday. I chose to stroll the tree lined streets in the early October sun. Finding myself in the central gardens which lead from the theatre square down to the river bank, I decided to sit quietly and read about the exploits of the leaders of the past who had travelled this way. Alexander, Timur and Ghengis had all had their moments here. I was interrupted by a passing Tajik woman in a business suit, who said she had seen me on local breakfast TV and thought I should visit a book fair. I agreed and went with her. The book fair was actually more like an open air lecture and exhibition of some fine old tomes of famous Persian poetry. Poetry is important and powerful in this region of the world and I am a keen enthusiast for ancient texts. The assembled book sellers and experts then enjoyed my attempts to read from an old manuscript text of Rumi. They laughed kindly and applauded genuinely. I felt accepted and warmly received.

Greg Stephenson

Greg has lived and worked in Central Asia since 1997. His hands-on understanding of the people, culture, and tourist destinations provides our clients the opportunity to feel comfortable knowing that they are in good hands. His travels throughout Central Asia have given him the opportunity to interact with many professionals in the tourism industry that enables him to providing the highest quality of services anywhere in the world.

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