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Introducing Tajikistan

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Muragazor Lakes ©

The Republic of Tajikistan is a landlocked, mountainous country in central Asia with much to offer adventurers, mountaineers and lovers of the road less travelled.

Tajikistan came into being with the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1990. It promptly fell into a bitter civil war until 1997, when a peace agreement lead to the formation of a republic under the largely corrupt leadership of Emomali Rahmon. Subsequent elections have been deeply flawed but peace has prevailed giving this impoverished country a chance at better things.

Dushanbe, the capital city, is famous for its Monday market and Soviet-era statues and is a good place to start a trip. In the far west of the country, the city of Khorog serves as a gateway to the magnificent Pamirs, perhaps the least-explored mountain range in the world. This vast region is difficult to access but rewards its intrepid visitors with splendid Alpine vistas and endless mountaineering opportunities.

Trekkers also come to Tajikistan to traverse the ancient Silk Road routes, and in doing so retrace journeys first taken three millennia ago. Also making an appearance on the Tajik highlights reel are the seven Muragazor Lakes which famously change colour throughout the day.

The national sport is wrestling, which won a silver medal for the country in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. Over 70 percent of the people live in rural areas, despite the fact that only seven percent of the land is arable. This is perhaps a clue to the persistent poverty that characterises the population.

Another negative indicator is the increasingly bizarre and autocratic leadership of President Rahmon, who has recently outlawed gold fillings and decreed that guests at circumcision ceremonies should not exceed 60 people. Despite their challenges, the predominantly Muslim Tajiks are renowned for their exuberant and friendly nature, providing a ready welcome for the few visitors that come.

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