For Eid Al Adha, we took a 2 day trip to Tajikistan, which is only a 3h flight from Dubai. Admittedly I knew next to nothing about the country, starting with the name of its capital - Dushanbe. We spent one day in said city, and a second day driving into the Fann Mountains to Iskanderkul, a beautiful lake. Definitely worth exploring, beautiful nature and a new culture.
...with traditional floor seating.
... and filled with food the next morning - like magic!
This sign seems to highlight all the major things to do in Dushanbe - we saw 3 of the 5!
The tallest buildings in Dushanbe, completed in 2011, standing at 92m tall. Interesting architecture.
The main avenue through the city.
It was the country's 25th national day on the 9th of September, celebrating the independence from the Soviet union.
Statue of Ismoil Somoni
The founder of the nation in the 9th century. Legend has it (our tour guide) that the Stalin statue that used to be on this spot has been moved somewhere outside the city - that would be an interesting sight.
Chef, Salesman and DJ all in one!
The local horse race course.
We figured this one out as well. Turns out, Tajikistan has a national holiday called Melon Day, in part celebrates as seen here.
He did leave a small hole!
Theme Park Tajikistan Style
Found a small theme park on the shores of the Komsomolsee. Rides not recommended.
Komsomolsee & Navruz Palace
"Kohi Navruz" was originally built as a tea house and then turned into a palace for weddings and state events. Photos of its interior later...
Fully compliant with all safety laws. Probably because there are none.
The building has 12 unusual halls, each of which with a unique style.
The Waiting Room
We got to see 5 of the rooms - this was the waiting room for official guests.
All the wood ornaments on the walls and ceilings are hand carved.
The wooden ceiling with its chandeliers.
This room is only for official state events.
One of the many doors and their incredible woodwork.
Everything was hand made by local craftsmen.
For international state events - you can see the translator boxes next to the back door.
Conference Room Ceiling
Energy saving lightbulbs in the chandelier!
Smaller Conference Room
I can't recall all the names of the rooms. This one was full of precious stone walls from materials of the country.
Smaller Conference Room
While not my type of interior, these rooms and the tour were truly impressive and worth seeing.
The last of the rooms was available for rent to the public and mainly used for weddings.
This is the stage area of the hall - normally people here will be dressed a bit fancier I suppose!
The painted ceiling took several months to complete.
Quick stop at the local BBQ place with the hotel's receptionist who gave us a city tour on his day off.
The Bazaar of the city was huge - it had a whole area just for bread.
Shop for Everything
No particular concept behind this stand from what I can tell.
Pretty amazing when fresh and warm.
The day to day outfit for woman is this kind of matching colourful combination of trousers and dresses.
A lot of children helped out on the local market. 70% of the population is under the age of 30.
Not sure I'd try this.
St. Nicholas Orthodox Church
98% of the country is Muslim.
Ayni Opera and Ballet Theatre
A concert for the National Day on the main square in front of the theatre.
Taking in the city atmosphere.
My kind of high heels!
Shoes that tell a story.
Not quite sure how this fits in.
The national dress.
The population was generally friendly and receptive to tourists.
Each of the doors led to a small room with artefacts from the history of the fortress.
The Hisor Fortress from the 16th century. Also includes a school, mosque and mausoleum.
Taking a Break
From the day to day hardships of life.
The amazing view from the top of the remaining main fortress wall.
A local woman in front of her shop.
Into the Mountains
On the second day we drove north towards the Fann Mountains, on the way to Lake Iskanderkul.
We found a few waterfalls along the M34 road.
The Varzob River flowing along the road almost the entire way.
Many of these villages are still very traditional.
Tunnel of Death
Our way took us trough some pretty scary spots, such as the Anzob Tunnel or "Tunnel of Death" - 20 minutes of pure darkness, inches between you and cars in the opposite direction, no emergency exits, no ventilation. Not fun after having seen a pretty bad accident in one of the previous tunnels.
While we didn't make it above 3000m, the highest peak of this range stands at almost 5500m.
Beautiful spots all around.
The outflowing river of the Iskanderkul lies in some of the most amazing nature I've ever seen.
The colour of the river is amazing.
The river meets with the Yaghnob River.
Named after Alexander the Great.
The colour of the mountain ranges against the turquoise lake was truly stunning.
Wasn't perfectly lucky with the weather - the high mountains mean there are always clouds caught up and blocking the sun from shining onto the lake.
We took a walk from the lake downstream to find a waterfall I had read about.
This gorgeous fall was quite impressive. Our guide didn't seem to concerned about his life (also evident by the fact he never wore a seatbelt).
With slight hesitation I went onto the rusty viewing platform to stand over the falls. Worth it.
Notice the bridge leading to the small island in the river. There are also remnants of a small cable car spanning the river to transport goods.
People still live in these houses today. Took this from the car, but I like the result with the blurry foreground.
On the way back we stopped in a small village for bread and drinks. Life seems calm.