Dushanbe Travel Blog› entry 14 of 83 › view all entries
The capital and largest city of Tajikistan is named after a day of the week most people find unwelcoming, but Dushanbe is a pleasant place with lots of trees, shops and a large garden full of bubbling fountains and variegated flowers. After the western welcome to the city Friday night, I spent my first full day strolling up and down the main drag known as Rudaki Avenue. I was unsuccessful in registering, but did manage to splurge and purchase a cheap Nokia cell phone and a SIM card so that I am now able to make phone calls and receive text messages, called SMS here. When I get to the next country, I simply buy a new SIM card and get a new mobile number.
They do not have monthly minute plans here; instead you purchase your minutes on phone cards you can buy just about everywhere. In theory I should be able to make calls to anywhere, provided I have the appropriate number of minutes. To receive calls and SMS messages, I am not charged any fees, but international calls are still rather expensive but SMS is relatively affordable. I haven't verified if it works, but I have used the phone locally and will save me a lot of hassles while I'm traversing around the country.
Just about everything there is to see and do in Dushanbe is within close proximity to Rudaki, and I meandered up and down the boulevard a few times on Saturday. Today is Sunday and many things are closed, but hopefully I will have time to visit the Museum of National Antiquities, reported to be the best museum in the country. If time remains, I would like to go to Hissar, a fortress from the 18th century located about 20 kilometers west of the city. The weather today has turned cooler and it started to rain.
My host Symon lives smack dab in the center, across the street from the large TsUM department store where I exchanged dollars in order to pick up the cell phone. Up the street I found a little bookstore where I bargained for a cheap Tajik-Russian-English phrasebook. While it is from the Soviet days, it's still useful enough and has impressed a few people here that I was attempting to learn some of their language. Tajik is quite different from Uzbek or the other Turkic languages. In essence, it's Farsi written in Cyrillic script with some Russian and Turkish borrowed words. There are still several words that are the same as Uzbek, so it's unusual to hear it spoken. The words not similar to Uzbek are so completely different, it's hard to make sense of it. I've been getting by on broken Russian and English and am learning the Tajik numbers and essential phrases.
For lunch on Saturday, I ate at a Turkish cafeteria. There are plenty of Turkish restaurants here, as well as some other ethnic cuisines like Chinese, Indian, Georgian and Ecuadorian (!). I've seen at least ten places advertising pizza, hamburgers and hot dogs. I'm pleased to report that there are no western chains here yet. Part of the fun of traveling is discovering the "Southern Fried Chicken" and "Big Mac" restaurants instead of something I could find in Rockville. After a week in the Pamirs, I may long for a greasy Whopper, but for now I'm happy to absorb the local versions of western favorites and prepare myself for the rural and "real" Tajikistan. If all goes well, I should be able to vote at the US embassy on Monday, get my registration taken care of and possibly buy an air ticket to Khorog, the capital of the eastern Gorno-Badakhshan region and gateway to the Pamirs. Failing that, I'll take my chances on breaking up the trip by going through southcentral Tajikistan towns instead of the gruelling 21-hour ride directly from here. Either way it will be an experience, which is after all the essence of this journey.