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Discovery Tajikistan travel guide #2/2010


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Khujand at the very entrance to the Ferghana valley, Khujand used to be a major stop and trading point along The Great Silk Road

The city thus controlled the entire traffic and at the time used its prime location to its best advantage levying heavy taxes on the goods entering and leaving the valley. In modern times, a new road into the Ferghana Valley was blasted further north over the 2268m high Kamchik pass on the southern slopes of the Chatgal range.
It was Alexander the Great who originally laid the foundation of Alexandria Eskhate “Alexandria the Furthest” as he called his 9th city, in the IV century BC. Khujand thus marks the extent of his advances into Central Asia. In fact, Alexander did reach as far as Samarkand but his troops fell back again and Alexander decided to build a stronghold on the site of modern Khujand, strategically ideal for defense and conquest.

The city grew in importance after the onset of Islam. In the XIII century, it put up the most spirited resistance to the invading Monghols under Genghis Khan according to historical accounts.

Much later, Khujand became the source of many territorial disputes between the Khanates of Kokand and Bukhara. Eventually, the entire region was subsumed into the Russian Czarist Empire and Khujand became part of greater Samarkand.
In 1929, Leninabad, as it was called under the Soviets, was ceded to neighboring Tajikistan by the Uzbek SSR so that the threshold of 1 M population could be reached there and the Tajik autonomous republic proclaimed. During the civil war in the 90's Khujand managed to escape most of the destruction, shielded as it is by the Fann Mountains. There were even motions of independence at the height of the hostilities.

Khujand is the second largest city in the republic, an important economic center for the powerhouse of the Tajik economy, producing two thirds of the country's GDP with three quarters of the country's arable land.

Sights in the city include: the walls of the Xth century fortress, the oldest remains in the city; the bazaar; the mosque; Madrasse and the Mausoleum of Sheikh Massal ad Din.

De Pamiri Handicraft is a Tajik NGO, working for the support of artisans in the remote mountains of the Pamirs (Gorno-Badakshan region). It started in 2004 as a project of the Mountain Societies Development Support Program member of the Aga Khan Development Network.

We support the creative production of traditional handicrafts, promoting Pamiri culture and identity. The continuation of Pamiri handicraft tradition is ensured by adapting old designs to modern demand.

Weaving grass and willow branches for house hold or farming uses is a common activity in most parts of the world. In most Badakhshani villages, men weave big baskets to carry hay or dung on their back.

In some villages of the Wakkan district and in the Madian valley of the Murgab district, women weave a long grass which is only growing in specific areas. This grass is very resistant and remains supple in time.

The skull caps are an element of clothing distinguishing the different communities of Badakhshan. Not only do their patterns differ but even the name given to them varies completely from one dialect to the other (“pakol”, “skid”, ”kloa…”)
The particularity of Yogued village gives an example of the importance to identify one community from the next through the skull cap. Yogued is a Shia Ismaeli village in the district of Darvaz which is dominantly Sunni. Consequently the skullcap of this tiny community is different from any other in Badakhshan.

Pamiri socks. Probably the most famous handicraft of the region. Traditionally made of hand spun sheep wool. The knitting technique used is particular to the region. The symbolism of the patterns originates in nature, daily life and religion (wolf paws, jar, swastika, fire…). Some of which can be traced back to the Zoroastrian period. It is interesting to notice that the significance of the symbols is still vital for many craftswomen.

Rugs made of goat or yak hair by the Pamiri men of Badakshan. The technique and design are very basic and result in a look that goes extremely well with modern minimalism. The thread is hand spun by the men, most often while walking or chatting outside. These rugs are long lasting.

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