Bordered by two east-west mountain chains (Zarafshan Range to the north, Hissor Range to the south) the Fan Mountains are one of Central Asia’s premier trekking and climbing locations with seven peaks over 5000m. Accessed easily from Samarqand (Uzbekistan), Khujand (full access May to October only) and Dushanbe (full access May to October only) the rugged, glaciated mountains are interspersed with many alpine turquoise lakes surrounded by either green pastures in summer or snowfields in the winter. In all seasons, this is a beautiful destination and there are many day trips or extended routes for the traveller to select from.

The main town in the region is Penjikent that lies only 60km east of Samarqand although crossing the border between Uzbekistan and Tajikistan can be a painfully long experience if you choose to make this journey. Indeed, Penjikent makes a go
od overnight location if travelling east into Tajikistan. The town has an extended history, being a Sogdian settlement from the 5th Century. It was an important staging post on the Silk Road and significant remains still exist of its former pre-eminence.
Travelling south from Penjikent, the Marguzor lakes are a 20km chain of seven deep blue lakes surrounded by peaks and via 3000m+ passes the trekker can access other valleys to the east, reaching Iskander Kul in five days. Iskander Kul can be reached by road, 24Km off the north-south Dushanbe to Khujand main route. The lake is named after Alexander the Great and there are many legends about the Macedonian that emanate from the region.

The poet and scholar Abu Abdullah Rudaki was born in the 9th Century in the region and several monuments reflect this. Rudaki was a Samanid court poet and is considered to be the father of Persian literature, composing in the Perso-Arabic alphabet or “New Persian” script. Over one million verses are attributed to him, however, only 52 qasidas, ghazals and rubais have survived. Of his epic masterpieces we have nothing beyond a few stray lines innative dictionaries.

“Rudaki was probably the first poet who made the most lucid expression about the tragic and critical condition that we as human beings all have in everyday life, the fact the our life is ephemeral and death is waiting for us any minute.”

The chiefs, the presidents, the kings of this world all, all have passed away; all have surrendered to death.

All those who built lofty palaces are now buried deep within the earth.

Ah, what is their share, their final portion, of all the goods and bounties of this world?

Is it any thing but a shroud to cover their bodies in the grave?

 Source: “Rudaki and the Survival of Persian Language” by Nasrollah Pourjavady. A Lecture Delivered at the United Nations in New York on the Occasion of Celebration of the 1150th Anniversary of the Persian Poet Rudaki, 18 July 2008.