Dushanbe (which means Monday in Persian) is the capital city of Tajikistan and is located among the lowlands in the west of the country. Once Dushanbe was an important trading post, holding a bazaar three times a week, and as such was the cross-roads for Central Asian caravan routes. In addition to being by far the largest city, it is the economic, legal and transportation centre of the country and was reconstructed by the Russians on top of previous settlements. It is a pleasant, slow-paced “garden” city, its streets are lined with towering leafy trees and large parks. New upmarket hotels and shops have recently sprung up and there are now even internet cafes with wi-fi as well as a large variety of restaurants offering international and local cuisine.
Things to see and do in Dushanbe: include visiting Central Asia’s largest buddha at the Museum of Antiquities; walking along Rudaki Street to see the President’s Palace, Central Park and Rudaki’s statue, as well as the Somoni statue and map of his empire behind him; the Botanical Gardens where you can enjoy some peace and quiet amongst many different kinds of trees or observe all the newly-weds and their entourages posing for photographs on a Sunday. For good views of the mountains around the city (haze permitting!) go to the Komsomol Lake and walk round to the side opposite the fairground rides. For good views over Dushanbe walk up the hills to the east of the city e.g. Victory Park; or alternatively try the artist’s graveyard on the western edge of the city, next door to the sports university. Get lost in Korvon bazaar, the biggest in the country, on the southern edge of the city. Or for a smaller bazaar experience try Zelyoni bazaar near the centre. The art gallery opposite the president’s palace is the best place to see the range of Tajik art.
Things to see and do around Dushanbe: Do like the locals and take a day out up the Varzob valley where you can eat shashlik and swim and lie about on a ‘cat’. Visit the Hissor Fort, an outpost of the Bukharan Emirate and the place the last Emir escaped to as the Russians took Bukhara. The walls used to be wide enough to drive a chariot along the top of, but as they were built from mud bricks you have to use your imagination to see how it used to be. The museum across the road fills in some of the history and gives you the chance to see inside a madrassa as well.