Dushanbe is the capital, the largest city and the main business and center in Tajikistan. Home to about 780,000 people, it is one of the smaller large cities in Central Asia, about a half of the size of Almaty in Kazakhstan and a forth of the third of the size Tashkent in Uzbekistan. Dushanbe is regarded by many people as pretty in the day and scary at night

Shadowed by the often snowy Hissar mountains, Dushanbe is a pleasant Soviet city with lots of trees, squares, and neighborhoods of grim, Soviet-era concrete-block apartments intermixed with neighborhoods of traditional wood houses. There are few tourist sights: some dusty museums, mosques, Orthodox churches, bazaars and old neighborhoods. The main drawback is that it is very dark at night and a little spooky. There are few street lights and many people regard it as unsafe. There have been reports of attacks and muggings.

Many of the Russians that remain in Tajikistan live in Dushanbe. There are also Turks, gangsters, and NGO workers walking the streets. Unlike other Central Asian cities it doesn’t have many new modern hotels and new shopping malls. Dushanbe is not an important transportation hub except for Tajikistan but it does have its share of moribund factories, pot-holed streets, and neighborhood were people have to scrape by to make ends meet.

Climate and Surroundings of Dushanbe

Dushanbe is located in the far western side of Tajikistan, about an hour's drive from the border of Uzbekistan. It lies in a sheltered river valley at 700 meters (2,300 feet) above sea level. Both the Varzob and Kofarnihon Rivers flow through Dushanbe. Among the kinds of trees found in Dushanbe are fruit trees, sycamores, maples, chestnuts, mulberry trees, oaks, and walnut trees. There are also many flower gardens. The Varzob also provides drinking water, irrigation water and hydropower. Almost 40 percent of the country’s industry is concentrated in the city of the area immediately surrounding it.

Dushanbe sits in the center of the Hissar valley, the largest agricultural area in Tajikistan. On the north and east sides of the city are the foothills of the snowy Hissar range, with peaks reaching 4,000 meters and higher. To the south is the Kofarnihon River. Dushanbe occupies both sides of Varzob River (called the Dushanbinka within the city), which is fed by waters from the snowfields and glaciers of the Hissar range, which is a part of the giant Pamir-Alai mountain system. In the Upper Varzob river-basin there are around 120 glaciers of various sizes, which helps create the microclimate in the valley near Dushanbe, producing gentle breezes and cooler temperature during the hottest time of the summer.

Because of its sheltered location, Dushanbe is often spared the more extreme weather conditions prevalent elsewhere in the region. The weather is cold in the winter, rainy in spring, hot and dry in the summer, with temperatures sometimes exceeding 38 degrees C (100 degrees F), and pleasant and dry in the autumn. There can be large temperature difference between day and night. Warm, dry weather can suddenly change to rainy and cool. A frosty morning may be followed by a warm, sunny day. Autumn is considered the best season to visit as it is warm and dry weather and fruit, vegetables, cotton, and other crops are harvested. Precipitation occurs mainly in the winter and spring and is highest in March and April. Snow usually does not stick and, if it does, it generally melts relatively quickly.

History of Dushanbe

Dushanbe doesn’t have a very long history. At the turn of the 20th century it was still a small village. The Russian officer, B. Litvinov wrote in the 1904 edition of “Historical Bulletin”: “Currently, Dushanbe represents a poor Hissar town, stretched along the Varzob River with slightly more than 500 households, mostly Tajiks. Poor clay-walled buildings and walls alternate with great orchards. At the edges of the town, the houses are covered with a cane-span roof like in the villages. As for the center, near the part-destroyed clay-walled fortress, the houses are cleaner.”

Dushanbe didn’t really make a name for its self until the 1920s when the Emir of Bukhara fled there and it was briefly taken over by basmachi fighters led Enver Pasha. Dushanbe was formed in 1922 when three small settlements with a combined population of 5,000 people were united into one. Even though it was badly battered in the Russian Civil War of 1918-21, and experienced a population drop from more than 3,000 in 1920 to 283 in 1924 and few buildings remained intact, it was chosen as the capital of the new Tajikistan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic in 1924.

The area occupied by Dushanbe has a relatively long history. Archaeological digs in the city and around it have uncovered a wedge-shaped copper axe dated 2nd millennium B.C., 2500-year-old elegantly-crafted gold and silver alloy earrings, part of bronze-gilded a harness bearing an embossment of the head of the Greek god Dionysus, and Sassanid silver coins. The first-known written record of Dushanbe dates to 1676 when it was called Kasabai Dushanbe and was located at the crossroads of caravan routes connecting the Hissar valley, Bukhara, Samarqand, the Pamirs and Afghanistan. The word Dushanbe means “Monday” in Tajik, a reference to the large bazaar held in the village on that day. [Source:Tourism Information Portal of Tajikistan]

Modern Dushanbe is a Soviet-era creation. When the railroad arrived in 1929, it was renamed Stalinabad (a name that endured until 1961) and expanded when many Tajiks moved in after the largely-Tajik cities of Samarkand and Bukhara were made part of the Uzbek SSR. Centrally planned development projects inaugurated in 1926, 1938, 1965, and 1983 established housing, government office buildings, cultural facilities, and sports and recreational facilities, as well as the municipal infrastructure. The city was turned into center of cotton and silk production. With the addition of about 100 factories, Dushanbe also became Tajikistan's industrial center. It is the headquarters of the republic's radio and television broadcasting facilities and film studio. Several institutions of higher education and scholarship are located there. [Source: Library of Congress, 1996]

In the 1990, people were killed in clashes between demonstrators, militias and polices. Demonstrations in 1992)-(led to civil war. There was heavy fighting in Dushanbe. Many people were killed. Armed gangs roamed the streets. Many people starved. Some died in gruesome ways. Most of the Russians fled. Large numbers of journalists, foreign soldiers and aid workers appeared during the first stages of the war in Afghanistan that began in 2002. In recent years the city has been relatively calm.

Orientation and Tourist Information for Dushanbe

Dushanbe is fairly small and concentrated. The streets have relatively light traffic, the sidewalks are spacious and most places of interest are found in the city center. The central area is situated around the wide, tree-lined Rudaki Avenue, which runs from the Dushanbe one train station and Kuybysheva Park to the for about five kilometers miles to the Botanical Gardens and continues for another seven kilometers to the northern outskirts of the city in the Varzob Valley..Dushanbe Airport is five kilometers (three miles) south of city center.

Paralleling Rudaki Avenue and running along the river is Hofiz Sherozi Avenue. Ismoil Somani Avenue connects Rudaki Avenue with Hofiz Sherozi Avenue and continues to the west. Most places of interest are within 15 minutes of the intersection of Hofiz Sherozi Avenue and Ismoil Somani Avenue. A walk or ride along the Rudaki Avenue will expose you to many of Dushanbe’s — and Tajikistan’s — main modern buildings, administrative offices, cultural institutions, universities, theatres, hotels and restaurants. Many streets and landmarks have both Soviet-era and a post-Soviet era name. Street names are sometimes not posted.

The Varzob River splits the Dushanbe into east and west sides, and if you add north and south parts other the city, you effectively divide Dushanbe into quadrants. Sometimes places are referred to as being on left bank (west side) and right bank (east side) of Dushanbe. Activity, the Botanical Garden is described as being in northern part of the right bank of Dushanbe, which means it is in the northeast part of the city.

Central Dushanbe retains center retains the layout of its original planners in the 1920s. Beside the wide, tree-lined streets are low-rise apartment houses and office buildings painted white or pastel colors. Although traffic picked up with increased availability of gasoline, it is still comparatively light. Because of shady trees and wide side walks and plentiful green spaces, walking or bicycle riding is a pleasant way to get around throughout the year. Outside the center part of the city, most neighborhoods consist either dilapidated Soviet-era high-rise apartments or poorly-constructed single-family houses. In recent some of these have been replaced by nicer homes. Some streets are narrow and in poor condition. Sidewalks may be lacking.

Dushanbe doesn't really have any proper government-run tourist offices. The Committee on the Tourism Development under the Government of the Republic of Tajikistan has an office in Dushanbe but may not be so welcoming to inquiries off the street or by phone or e-mail. Address: 78, Rudaki avenue, Ismoili Somoni District, Dushanbe, Republic of Tajikistan, 734001, Tel: (+992)-37 – 227-8480,(+992)-37 – 227-8783, e-mail: tourism.tajikistan@mail.ru .

Most places with tourist-office-sounding names are travel agencies. For example: 1) Tourism Development Center, Tajikistan, Address: Ayni Street 15, Dushanbe, Tajikistan, Hours: 9:00 to 5:00pm, Tel: (+992)-372 21 4873; 2) Tourism Information Portal of Tajikistan: Address: Ayni str. 15#3, Dushanbe, 734042, Tajikistan; Tel: (+992)-37 221 48 73, Fax: (+992)-37 221 48 73, http://www.tourism.tj . The large travel agencies and major hotels offer some information on arranged tours but little else,

Entertainment in Dushanbe

Cultural and nightlife opportunities include the opera, ballet, classical music, folk music, folk dance shows, cafes, tea houses and maybe some vodka-serving tea houses. The local social scene revolves around tea houses and cafes. Alcohol consumption is frowned upon as Tajikistan does have its conservative Muslim side and thus there are not many bars or nightclubs and the ones that exist tend to be at hotels frequented by foreigners. Although there are not as many as there used to be, there are a fair number of NGO workers in Dushanbe and you may try to connect to their social scene.

For entertainment news browse English-language websites and publications if you can find some and check out posters pasted on walls around town. The number of night spots and bars has increased since the end of civil war. Many cafes, restaurants and bars are associated with hotels. Some restaurants become bars with music at night. Make sure you work out how to get back to your hotel, preferably using a reliable taxi company.

There are a couple of cinemas scattered around town. Many are run Soviet-era venues that have seen better days. Since theaters are often unheated, only the most stalwart go them in the winter. In the summer there are pleasant activities in parks and gardens, especially music and dance programs organized by some of the small museums around town. Poetry readings are common but you need a high level of understanding of the Tajik language to appreciate them.

Sports: Horse races and buz kashi can sometimes be seen at Hissar Fort outside Dushanbe. Local soccer clubs plays at the stadium. The tickets for sports events are cheap and stadiums and arenas are rarely full. There are Soviet-era sports facilities in Dushanbe but their condition may be marginal. The high-end hotels may have gyms.

Dance, Theater and Opera in Dushanbe

The quality of the dance, theater, opera and classical music is reasonably good and the prices are very cheap. The Sadriddin Aini Opera and Ballet Theater at prospekt Rudaki 28 host regular performances. Smaller classical concerts are held at museums and churches and other places. The main theaters are the A. Lohuti Drama Theater and the Russian Mayakovsky Drama. They have regular Russia-and Tajik-language productions. Sometimes folk music shows are sponsored at theaters, hotels and museums.

The Sadriddin Aini State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre (Tajik Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet) opened in 1940 and is one the main Soviet-era landmarks in Dushanbe. Names after a famous Tajik literat figure, it hosts the national opera and ballet companies as well as classical music concerts. The first professional theatre in the country — the A. Lohuti Tajik State Academic Drama Theatre — hosts a variety of drama productions. The “Lukhtak” puppet-theatre and the M. Vohidov Youth Theatre host events for children.

Tickets for concerts and performances are cheap, often less than a dollar. They can be purchases through booking offices, informal booths or tables set up the streets, the box offices at the theaters and concert halls. Hotel service desks and concierges at hotels can help you with tickets. They often charge fees for their ticket services. Tickets bought from informal booths or box offices are considerably cheaper.

The Tajik Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet is located on Dushanbe’s main street, Rudaki Avenue, near the Park of Opera and Ballet.Address: Rudaki ave., 28, Dushanbe, Tajikistan, Tel: +(+992)-( 37) 221-62-91, website: www.operabalet.tj, Ticket price: 20 Tajikistani Somoni, Languages: Tajik and Russian.Events: See posters for current programs. Events: See posters for current programs.

"Luhtak" Puppet theatre has been operating since its opening in 1985 and hosts events with actors and performers as well as puppets. Shows are often a traditional style and performances are in the Russian and Tajik languages. The Puppet Theatre is located in the north east of Dushanbe, on Shotemur Street, next to the playground. Address: Shotemur st., 54/1, Dushanbe, Tajikistan. Ticket price: 10 Tajikistani Somoni. Events: See posters for current programs.

The state complex Kohi Vahdat (Unity Palace) is in the northern part of the city. It has several halls in the complex, the largest having a capacity of over 1,500 seats, in which large social and business meetings. The northern part of the city holds the three largest universities of the country — the Q. Juraev Tajik Pedagogical University (the first higher education institute of the country, opened in 1931), the Abu Ali Ibni Sino Tajik Medical University and the Tajik Agrarian University.

Restaurants in Dushanbe

There are a lot more restaurants in Dushanbe than there used be when most eating places were at Soviet-era hotels with a limited menu and pretty awful food. Many restaurants are still located at hotels but the food is better now — and more expensive. Some hotel restaurants become bars with music later at night. At the Green markets there are vendors selling kebabs, noodles, dumplings and snack food. Since the end of the civil war some new restaurants and cafes have opened up. Most have Central Asian or Russian food. They are mostly located near the city center but others are scattered around here and there. Today you can find restaurants that serve Korean, Indian and Arab food and even American hamburgers.

According to caravanistan.com: “The dining scene in Dushanbe has exploded in the last couple of years, with restaurants opening and closing regularly. There are far too many restaurants to list. But be aware that they opened with their targeted clientele being locals with higher incomes, not tourists. So do not expect service in English in most places.”

On places that cater to locals: “Some of these places have no menus, and if they have menus they don’t always have everything listed in the menu. Locals sit down and ask “What do you have?” and the server will list the options (but not the prices, unless you ask). Many of these places are truly authentic, and not adjusted to the tastes of foreign tourists. So expect little in the way of subtle flavours and much in the way of very high levels of sugar, oil and salt. The best way to choose a convenient option is to ask at your place of accommodation. They have all answered this question thousands of times, and have a list of places nearby (and sometimes a menu with prices as well) that may now be able to accommodate people who speak no Tajik (with extremely basic English, or a picture menu, or just saying “Plov? Lagman? Shashlik?”.

Brad Gooch of Bloomberg wrote” “Central to Tajik society are its choikhonas, or teahouses, and the grand example is Choikhona It’s a popular venue for regional staples: lagman (lamb and noodle soup) with a salad of parsley, tomato and onion; shashlik kebab; or the ubiquitous plov (a one-pot meat-and-rice stew). The menus are still printed in Cyrillic, the national alphabet, and top picks are borscht, goulash and black kleb bread. The U.S. contribution is the “Morning Star Cafe, the only faux-American diner in town, complete with wood paneling, checkered linoleum floors, wrought-iron chairs, and a magazine rack with back issues of Time magazine. Specialties on the big glossy menu included sweetened iced tea, pancakes and biscuits, and chocolate milkshakes.”

Super Teahouses in Dushanbe

Choikhona Kokhi Navroz (Complex "Kohi Navruz") has has been billed as the grandest and largest tea house in Central Asia. An opulent multi-domed structure with intricate hand-carved wood designs, it hosts a wide variety of entertainment and leisurely activities and has a bowling alley and a supermarket, among other things. The main building is 46 meters and 12 rooms. It is surrounded by pavilions, fountains and trestle beds on about three hectares of land.

"Kohi Navruz" (Palace of Nowruz) was initially planned to be only a teahouse, but during the construction its designers decided to make it into a palace. The complex boast 12 unusual halls, each made in a different style. There is an art room, a banquet hall, a lounge room with carved stone trim, plaster room decorated with mirrors, two VIP rooms. It is big enough to handle 3,200 guests. [Source: Tourism Information Portal of Tajikistan]

The rooms are decorated by local artists and craftsmen with things like wood carvings, Florentine mosaic from the local semi-precious stones, painted ceilings and mosaics made of colored mirrors, On the walls there are scenes from the ancient legends. On the ceiling there are old style, wooden ornaments made mainly by craftsmen from Isfara. The gardens around "Kohi Navruz" are planted with redwood, fir, plum, chestnut, maple, magnolia, buksusa, pine, cypress and birch trees, making the teahouse a particularly nice place to sit outside when the eather is warm..

Rohat Teahouse (in central Dushanbe, city on Rudaki Ave. 84, next to the Presidential Palace) is a combination teahouse, restaurant with good Tajik cuisine, a museum and an example visible of fine Soviet-style architecture. Built in 1958, when thing were built on a grand scale, the teahouse has two floors with several rooms that seat up to one 000 people and often has a lot of people in it. Teahouse is decorated with patterns of national ornaments, made by Uzbek artists and craftsmen. People stop here for a quick snack and sit down meals. Businessmen have meetings here; couples celebrate weddings and anniversaries. Rohat claims it is biggest teahouse in Dushanbe. Saodat, on Rudaki Avenue opposite the Tajik Medical University, is another impressive teahouse with national paintings on its ceiling. Address: Dushanbe,

Shopping in Dushanbe

The main shopping district is around Rudaki Avenue. The Central Department Store (TSUM) on the central part of Rudaki is Dushanbe’s largest department store. It has surprisingly large selection of stuff. Scattered around the city are informal markets, where people sell old tools, used clothes and other of junk. At the intersection of Rudaki and Ismoil Somoni Avenues is an art shop where you can buy works of art as well as original handicrafts of local craftsmen and artists.

Green Market (Shohmansur, Zilioni Bazaar) is the biggest bazaar in downtown Dushanbe and devoted mostly to fruit and vegetables and is very cheap by Western standards. It has a large variety of foods, including dried fruit, nuts, fresh fruits, spices, meats, bread, tools and household products. It is possible to see the entire bazaar in an hour or two. It is behind the S. Aini Opera and Ballet Theatre. An easy walk from Sadbarg.

Korvon Bazaar (30 minute ride from downtown) is the main goods market in Dushanbe. It is very large and easy to get lost in. There is a huge indoor clothing and shoes section as well as a smaller food section. It is a good place to search for carpets, although most come from Turkey, not Tajikistan. Sultoni Kabir, Sakhovat and Korvon markets are in the southern part of the city. Marshruktas to Korvon have a "Корвон" sign and leave from near Sadbarg.

Dushanbe Mall (Ashan Hypermarket) is a shopping mall at Bekhzod Street 47 (Tel: +992 48 888 4000) that stays open until 10:00pm. Muliyen Mall is near the National Museum of Tajikistan. Trading Center "Poytaht-90" (Mehnat str.) Opened in 2015 and has three floors. On the first floor are 27 shops and a children's play room; on the second are 28 shops and two cafes on the; on the third: 15 stores, one restaurant, three fast food joints and a food court with Tajik dishes. Among the items on sale are clothing for women, men and children, watches, shoes, different fabrics, toys, phones, jewels, perfumes, meat, dairy products, vegetables and fruits. There are exchange offices to change money on each floor. Next to the main building is the summer sales pavilion for dried fruits sellers, who formerly sold stuff at the Green Bazaar.

Accommodation in Dushanbe

The accommodation situation is limited mostly Soviet-era hotels, and two and three star hotels and few top-end hotels. They are mostly located near the city center but otherwise are scattered around here and there. There are not many bed-and-breakfasts and rooms in private homes. There are some though. In recent years several new hotels have been built. Check the Lonely Planet guide and/or travel agencies recommended in the Lonely Planet guide. Some of travel agencies arrange home stays for around $20 a night.

According to caravanistan.com: The best region in Dushanbe is anywhere close to the southern part of Rudaki, especially the diamond-shaped area between the streets Rudaki, Ayni, Druzhby Narodov and Shohtemur. This district consists of quiet, residential streets where the richer residents of Dushanbe live.

“Beware of lower mid-range hotels. They often retain much of the post-Soviet eccentricities that old travel guides warn about: water problems, broken locks, stained blankets, unwashed sheets, broken lights, unreliable wifi, strange noises, drunk neighbours, prostitutes and pimps knocking on your door, rude or disinterested concierges, aggressive questioning of solo female travelers, et cetera. Dushanbe’s hostel managers tell us “refugees” fleeing their sketchy hotel for a hostel bed are common. Better to splurge or get thrifty: a guesthouse with good reviews or a private room in a hostel is a far better option than a bad mid-range hotel; these hotels really only exist for local businessmen, government workers and prostitution.”

The Hotel Tajikistan on the northern side of Central Park is is one of largest hotels and best known hotels in Dushanbe. It specializes in welcoming foreign guests and has comfortable rooms, satellite TV, internet, business services, restaurants, bars, a guarded parking lot, and a foreign exchange office for tourists and business people. The hotel accepts credit cards such as Visa and MasterCard.

Transportation in Dushanbe

Most places can be reached on foot. Public transportation consists of buses, trolleybuses and marshrutkas (minibuses). There are no subways, metros, or trams. Buses are very crowded and should be avoided. Service is often disrupted by fuel shortages and lack of parts. Dushanbe International Airport is within the city limits and it only takes 10—20 minutes to get to by public transportation from the city center.

Minibuses (marshrutka) are the most commonly used form of transport. National Unitary Bus Company provides bus services in the city. Private minibus companies operate low-capacity minibuses (7-8 passengers) in the city. Trolleybuses provide transport on nine routes in the city. Rental cars are available. Renting a car with a driver is not so expensive.

Transportation in Dushanbe is provided by four state communal unitary enterprises (Bus-1, Bus-2, Bus-3 and Trolleybus) and 20 companies of various forms involving private vehicles on a contractual basis. A total of 216 buses, 70 trolleybuses, 56 minivans and over 2,000 private sector vehicles operate on 90 routes. Address: Dushanbe city, Rudaki avenue, 140, Tel: 224-37-59, 224-37-49. Web: http://www.dushanbe.tj/ru/social/transport/ A separate aviation unit of the National Guard of the Republic of Tajikistan offers helicopter air transportation services. For more information, please contact us by e-mail nuralizoda80@bk.ru and by phone (+992)-93 562 01 31, (+992)-988 39 46 10

Taxis are also available. Many people get around by taxi even though they are scarcer than in other Central Asian cities. If you can only use officially licensed taxis. Taxis are not metered. Agree on fare and destination before boarding. Taxis usually gather around the Hotel Tajikistan or other major hotels. There are a number of phone paging app (See Below) Private cars sometimes serve as taxis. You can try flagging one down by standing on the sidewalk and holding at your hand to let passing driver know you want a ride. Drivers often don’t stop though. They are nervous about picking up strangers. At night don’t flag down a private car. Arrange to have a taxi meet you at your hotel. Taxi Companies: 1) “Rakhsh Taxi Dushanbe” is a service that allows you to quickly call a taxi without a call to the dispatcher. Order a taxi: 3333; E-mail: info@rakhshtaxi.tj ; 2) Asian Express: Order a taxi: 1616; E-mail: info@asiangroup.tj ; 3) G. Dushanbe,

Taxi drivers generally operate on the basis of landmarks and orientation points, not street names. Communication can also be an issue as many drivers speak only Tajik and Russian. If you don't speak Russian have your destination and a nearby landmark written down in advance in Cyrillic, and have a pencil and a paper with numbers listed that you can use for negotiating the price. Agree on a price with a driver before you set off. Do this on paper so there is no confusion.

Train Stations: The train station is on ploshchad Kuybysheva for about one kilometers from the city center. Sometimes in front of the train station in Dushanbe, young men gather in hopes of securing a ticket to Russia.

Buses and Minibuses to Destinations Outside Dushanbe. Minibuses, shared taxis and buses to different destinations leave from different places. There are no international bus services, only to the borders, Departures are mostly in the early morning. 1) Pamir bus terminal (Povorot aeroporta terminal Pamira, Avtobaza 2929), Ahmed Donish Street (close to the airport). 2) Terminal Khojent (Vodanasos cement factory Terminal), Rudaki Street (End of Rudaki Street towards Varzob Valley. Minibuses to Khojent and Varzob, Aini, Panjakent, Khujand. 3) Korvon Market terminal (Korvon Market, south of Center). Many private cars to Kurgan-Tybe and Kulyab. 4) From Dushanbe I Train Station, minibuses and taxis towards the east to Kofarnihon, Faizabad; 5) Polytechnic Institute terminal, Djami Avenue. for taxis toward west: Hissor; 6) Sakhovat Market terminal (Sakhovat Market). Private SUVs go to Afghan Border (Sherkhon Bandar). Also lines toward south to Qurghonteppa and Kulob.

Central Dushanbe and Interesting Buildings There

Memorial Complex in the central square honors the 1,100th anniversary of the Samanid State with a statue to Ismoil Somoni, the founder of the first Tajik state in the 9th-10th centuries. In his uplifted right hand of Ismoil Somoni holds a regal gold sceptre with an image of the sun and seven stars — a symbol of national unity and revival in Tajikistan. The memorial complex was built in 1999. Large festivities such as military and mass parades are all held here. [Source: Tourism Information Portal of Tajikistan]

Further down the avenue is Central Park, which has an amusement park, stage and sports grounds. It fills up with locals on weekends, holidays and in the evenings. There are restaurants and a cafe in the park. On the opposite side of the Avenue, directly opposite the park, there is the capital’s administration building — the Dushanbe Hukumat (Town Hall). A. Firdausi National Library is one of the most beautiful buildings in Dushanbe. Opposite the library is a Press house built in the 1930s which is one of the first large printing houses in Dushanbe. The first printing equipment was delivered to the capital in 1925 from Termez by a camel caravan.

Brad Gooch of Bloomberg wrote: “Soviet neoclassical architecture lends an orderliness to the cityscape, with many buildings resembling Easter eggs dipped in pastel dyes: the lemon-yellow Firdousi Library; the baby-blue Russian academy; the Pompeiian-red National Bank; the beige Presidential Palace complex with its splashing fountains.” [Source: Brad Gooch, Bloomberg, May 23, 2013]

The National Library of Tajikistan is a new nine-storey building constructed in the form of an open book The building is 52 meters high and has a total area is 45 thousand square meters, making it the largest library in Central Asia. Near the main facade of the building are 22 busts of famous heroes of local history, science and literature masters of the Tajik nation. Haji Yakoub Mosque and Madrasah (near the Hotel Oktyabrskaya) is one of the few Islamic sights in Dushanbe. Named after a Tajik religious leader who fled to Afghanistan, it was built in the 1990s with money from Saudi Arabia, Iran and Pakistan.

The Sadriddin Aini State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre (Tajik Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet) opened in 1940 and is one the main Soviet-era landmarks in Dushanbe. The Writer’s Union Building is a cathedral-like building with images of famous Persian poets. Its Bauhaus forms is a fine example of revolutionary-modernist architecture of the 1920s. At the front are busts of regional culture heroes such as Persian polymath Omar Khayyam. Rohat on Rudaki is two-story, neon-lit glass building reminiscent of the old TWA terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airpor. The ceiling of its terrace is painted in an ornate Persian floral style.

Museums and Libraries in Dushanbe

National Museum of Tajikistan (across the street from Hotel Poytakht, not far from the Railway Station) is a fairly large history, natural history and art museum, containing 22 small and large exhibition halls that house exhibits on nature, antiquity, the Middle Ages, modern and contemporary history, and fine and applied arts, written heritage, archaeology and numismatics. The exhibition area covers 15,000 square meters. Among the more interesting stuff are 10th century prayer niches from Samarkand and a collection of Olympic wrestling medals.

The museum is officially called the K. Behzod National Museum (Kamoliddin Behzod was a famous 15-16th century miniatures master) and opened in 1934. The chiming clock on the museum tower counts the “New Time” (the time since Tajikistan’s independence). Address: Ismoil Somoni av., 11, 734001, Dushanbe, Tajikistan, Tel: +(+992)-(37) 227-85-61; 227-85-77, e-mail: museumtj@rambler.ru, Opening hours: Tuesday — Saturday:10:00am-4:00pm, Sunday: 11:00am-3:00pm. Closed on Mondays and on the last Saturday of every month. Tours: English-speaking guides and photo fees cost extra.

Ethnography Museum (next to National Museum of Antiquities of Tajikistan) consists of two rooms with a hodgepodge collection including 20th century Tajik art, ceramics, carpets, embroidery, musical instruments, traditional clothes and jewelry. It is worth a visit.

A. Firdausi National Library is one of the most beautiful buildings in Dushanbe. It contains more than three million books in a variety of languages, including ancient oriental manuscripts collection, the pride of the library. Among the most unique and rare manuscripts are the History of Tabari (13th century), one of the best hand-written copies of Firdausi’s epic Shohnoma (16th century), a collection of Jomi’s works, Seven Beauties, poems of Hofiz, rubai (4-line stanza poems) of Omar Khayom, and an anthology of poems by Saadi. Manuscripts of the works of Avicenna, Alisher Navoi, Tusi, Ghazali, Bedil, Ahmad Donish and other famous writers, scholars and enlighteners of the Orient are also carefully preserved in the collection. There are about 100,000 books in 34 languages in the foreign publications collection. The library has thematic catalogues and several reading-halls. [Source: Tourism Information Portal of Tajikistan] Address: 734024, Dushanbe, five Tehron str. E-mail-info@kmt.tj ; Opening Hours: Tuesday-Saturday from 8:00am to 8:00pm

Gurminj Musical Instrument Museum

Gurminj Musical Instrument Museum (a block east of Rudaki near the Iranian Embassy) is a small private museum with a variety of Central Asian and Asian musical instruments. The best time to visit is when there is a musical or cultural or when folk musicians gather there to practice. The museum was founded in 1990 with most of the instruments coming from the private collection of the Tajik artist and actor Gurminj Zavqibekov. There are more than 200 items, mainly stringed and percussion instruments, that includes setars, dutars, rubabs, tanburs and banjos.

Among the most beautiful pieces are an ivory-inlaid setar from Kashgar and Afghan Badakhshan and Shah setars, which are more than 100 years old. The Shah setar is made of mulberry wood. The collection of “dutors” (two strings setar) is very diverse and includes dutars from Bukhara and Badakhshan.

Address: Bokhtar st., 23, Dushanbe, Tajikistan, Tel: (+992)-(37) 223-10-76; (+992)-93-57-31-076, website: www.gurminj.tj , e-mail: Ikbol_sho@mail.ru , Opening hours: Open daily from 9:00am to 5:00pm; Languages: Tajik, Russian, Badakhshan, English. Concerts a group of musicians can be organized upon special request for US$50 to US$100 per hour.

National Museum of Antiquities of Tajikistan

National Museum of Antiquities of Tajikistan (across from Opera Ballet House) includes a number of exhibits that detail the country's history but unfortunately most everything is in Russian or Tajik, with only few English signs. The museum is very poorly funded (there is a man who follows you to turn off the lights after you are finished with an exhibit room) but interesting and has and contains a number of interesting artifacts from ancient Tajikistan as well as from the Silk Road period. The most outstanding piece is 14 meter long statue of a reclining Buddha on the second floor. The statue was discovered during archaeological excavation of the investigations of the ancient Buddhist monastery of Ajina Tepe.

Opened in 2001, the Museum’s collection includes artifacts from the Hellenistic-era temple of Oxus, found on the Takhti-Sangin site, as well as wall paintings from Pendjikent. Other items of interest include artifacts from the ancient and Silk Road period sites of Khujand, Pendjikent, Istravashan, Kulob and Hulbuk.

Address: Radjabov st., 7, Dushanbe, Tajikistan, Tel: (+992)-(37) 227-13-50; 221-37-42, web-site: www.afc.ryukoku.ac.jp/tj, e-mail: kamila-rose@mail.ru , Opening hours: Tuesday-Friday: from 9:00am to 5:00pm; Saturdays: from 9:00am to 4:00pm; Sundays and Mondays: from 9:00am to 2:00pm. No photos allowed English-speaking tour guide is available.

Parks in Dushanbe and the World’s 2nd Highest Flagpole

Dushanbe has many parks, green spaces and wide, tree-lined streets.Because of shady trees and wide side walks and plentiful green spaces, walking or bicycle riding is a pleasant way to get around throughout the year. Central Park has an amusement park, stage and sports grounds. It fills up with locals on weekends, holidays and in the evenings. There are restaurants and a cafe in the park. On the opposite side of the Avenue, directly opposite the park, there is the capital’s administration building — the Dushanbe Hukumat (Town Hall).

The giant statues of the writer Maxim Gorky and Sadriddin Ayni, the great Tajik writer and intellectual, stand in parks with views of the mountains. S. Aini Park is in the northern part of Dushanbe. The writer’s mausoleum is in the center of the park. Pine-covered Victory Park, has outdoor cafes serving local Simsim beer and offer panoramic views of the city and the 13,000-foot-high peaks of the Hissar Range, still snowcapped in spring.

Park of the National Flag of Tajikistan is the home of the world's tallest flagpole, at 165 meters (541 feet). It was the tallest when it was unveiled in 2011. But it slumped to second after a taller flagpole that is 170 meters (560 feet) was built in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The third highest in flagpole in Baku, Azerbaijan (162 meters) was the tallest until the Dushanbe pole was constructed. The Tajikistan national three-color flag that hangs from the Dushanbe flagpole measures 60 meters by 30 meters.

Botanical Gardens in Dushanbe

Garden Iram (northern of Dushanbe, east side of the Varzob River) has one side on tthe Varzob River and used to be part of the Botanical Garden of the Academy of Sciences of Tajikistan . Covering 30 hectares and founded in the 1930s, the garden has glass greenhouse around an ethnographic reserve of folk architecture was set in 2007. Here there are traditional houses and special buildings of inhabitants of different regions of Tajikistan, including: alouhona (summer Dutch oven) mehmonhona (living room), a hamom (bath), dairies and mills.

As part of a new project wooden aivans (arbors) were built and decorated with eastern ornament s and animal sculptures and benches for visitors were installed. Along one of the main paths of the garden various exercise machines have been set up. The summer amphitheater has seating for 1,500 people. Recently, the Botanical Garden of the Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Tajikistan was renamed to the Garden "Iram" and turned into a recreation park, On weekends exhibitions of craftsmen, artists and local businesses are held .

Botanical Gardens of the Academy of Sciences of Tajikistan (near Rudaki Avenue near the Agrarian University) was founded in 1933 and has more than 2,000 species of plants from all over the world. There are more than 600 species of roses and more than 30 species of juniper. There is a sycamore path in the park called the “Friendship of People Avenue”. All the trees were planted by participants of the First Conference of the Peoples of Asia and Africa, held in Dushanbe.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Tourism Information Portal of Tajikistan (traveltajikistan.tj), Tajikistan government websites, UNESCO, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Japan News, Yomiuri Shimbun, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Updated in August 2020

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