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TheWanderingCamel Says: Sitting on plateau high above the Zerafshan River, the ruins of the Sogdian city of Bunjikath spread out over some 45 acres. At first sight they look like nothing more than a muddle of sunbaked clay mounds and hollows but, begin to walk through the site and it doesn't take...
TheWanderingCamel Says: Dedicated to, and named for, the blind 10thC poet Rudaki who is generally recognised as the father of Persian poetry, Panjakent's museum has been recently, and quite impressively, upgraded. One gallery is dedicated to the poet, another to Tajikistan's very recent status as a...
TheWanderingCamel Says: Panjakent is recorded as having a Friday mosque as early as the 10thC CE, thus elevating it from a village to a town. Newly restored after decades of neglect under Soviet rule, the old Juma (Friday) Mosque is set among roses and shady trees, a tranquil haven in the midst of...
The chances are if, as we did, you come to Panjakent on an organised tour, lunch will be included. Restaurants as we know them in the west being thin on the ground here, that probably means you will, as we did, find yourself in a private house. Be prepared for a feast!!
We arrived to find a long cloth laid out on a low table, padded mats and cushions all around to sit on in a room hung with suzanis, one long wall lined with a cabinet displaying the family china and glassware . The table was laden with food - several bowls of different salads ( cabbage, beets, carrot, finely sliced onion and chopped herbs, tomatoes, chickpeas), plates and bowls of fruit (melon, apples, grapes) and loaves of glossy, golden non -bread. And that was just for starters. A side table was groaning with pastries, cake, bowls of sweets,kishmesh - raisins, and almonds.
Soup (shorpur) followed the salads and just as we were feeling we might, just might, be able to squeeze in some of the sweetmeats from the side table and a slice of melon, in came a steaming platter of plov - rice with meat and carrot, a Central Asian staple. Small servings all round, please!
Lunch is the main meal of the day in this part of the world and our western habit of grabbing a snack and moving on to the afternoon's activity just wasn't going to happen here in Panjakent. We had been invited into someone's home and they were going to show us true Tajik hospitality - a meal to be lingered over and savoured. Truth to tell, we were feeling somewhat embarassed by the generosity of the lunch that was served to us and the amount we left untouched but our guide told us we shouldn't worry - none of it would be wasted. The decade-long civil war had left everyone with memories of terrible food shortages and, as a result, all food was to be valued and there was always someone to whom any extra food could be given but it was a matter of pride for our hostess that we should enjoy her cooking and hospitality. So, in true Tajik style, we had another cup of tea and enjoyed the company as we finished our meal.
Updated Nov 10, 2009
Bring me yon wine which you
might'st call a melted ruby in its cup,
Or like a scimitar unsheathed,
in the sun's noontide light held up.
Thou might'st call the cup the cloud,
the wine, the raindrop from it cast,
Or say the joy that fills the heart
whose prayer, long looked-for, comes at last.
Were there no wine all hearts would be a desert waste,
forlorn and black,
But were our last life-breath extinct,
the sight of wine would bring it back.
O! if an eagle would but swoop,
and bear the wine up to the sky,
Far out of reach of all the base,
who would not shout, "well done!" as I"?
Abu Abdullah Jafar ibne Mohammad Rudaki
Born Rudak, near Panjakent, 858 CE
Died Bukhara 941 CE
Updated Nov 10, 2009
With some of our group coming from a tick-prone area, thus being well aware of the problems they can pose, and knowing that areas of rural Tajikistan (and Uzbekistan) are home to the nasty critters, we factored tick-prevention into the general traveller's list of comfortable walking shoes, long sleeves and covered legs along with the usual hats and sunscreen for days spent in exposed sites. Pale colours are best as ticks will show up more easily.
Our guide clearly didn't have the same hangups. As we strode out in our sturdy walking shoes and trousers, she tripped around the rough paths of the archaeological site in high-heeled mules and a black sparkly skirt. She did look sweet, if more dressed for a party than a day scrambling around utterly ruinous ruins.
Joking aside - ticks are a real threat. One settling on you and transmitting one of the tick-borne diseases that are endemic in Central Asia could seriously spoil your holiday.
Bring DEET-based insect repellant and apply it to exposed skin, avoiding eyes, mouth and any exposed wounds. Pack some tweezers or a small tube of cream containing permethrin and check carefully for ticks after a day spent in rural or forested areas and, if you find one, remove it carefully by grasping the head with the tweezers - be sure to remove ALL of it - or by a couple of applications of the cream a few minutes apart and then leaving it for 24 hours after which it should drop off or it can be gently removed.
I don't profess to be any sort of an expert on this but I do know ticks are very nasty creatures and, whilst I'm not paranoid about them, I am not prepared to dismiss tick prevention and care either. Trekkers and anyone heading for rural home stays should certainly seek advice from their doctor or pharmacist if tick-care is outside their usual experience.
Written Oct 31, 2009
TheWanderingCamel Says: Situated as it is only 70km from Samarkand, Panjakent makes an interesting day excursion from the Uzbek city. Not that it's something you can decide to do on the spur of the moment! Not only do you need a Tajik visa, you also need to have a multiple entry visa for Uzbekistan...