Pamir Mountains June 17-27, Part 2. Khorog

Pamir Mountains, Part 2 — Khorog

Khorog, Tajikistan. Capital of the GBAO region in the Pamir Mountains. A view from the botanical gardens.

Khorog is the city where I had my first ever ambulance ride. I was accompanying an American friend who, while jogging at 6 a.m., was bitten by a dog. At the hospital, a doctor cleaned the wound thoroughly (after I paid for the medicine) and prescribed her with two antibiotics, to ward off infection. Vanessa speaks Farsi, which is close enough to Tajik that she could talk to the doctors directly. They assured Vanessa that Khorog does not have “crazy dog” disease. But to be on the safe side, she found a car to drive her the 15 bone-rattling hours to Dushanbe so she could get her rabies vaccine booster within 24 hours. Back at the US embassy, she got her shot and was given new prescriptions. She is fine, but two weeks later she still has a huge bruise on her calf.

The dog, supposedly, is also fine. The woman who owned the dog was out sweeping her yard at the time of the incident, called the dog into the house and shut the door on Vanessa as she was walking up to ask for help. Normally, Tajiks are the most friendly and helpful people. Our best guess was that this situation however could easily have put the dog’s owner in personal jeopardy (oops, her dog just bit a foreigner!) and she was trying to “escape” the situation. Apparently this may have been the best coping strategy during the Soviet time.

Khorog, the capital of the Gorno-Badakhshan (GBAO) region, has a population of about 30,000 and is at 2100 meters above sea level. The GBAO is the state’s name for the Pamir Mountain region in Tajikistan, and as the name applies, these mountain people do have some autonomy in running their region. Because of their isolation, their first language is not Tajik, but Shugani. They both share Persian roots, but as Lonely Planet says, they are as different as German and English. However, everyone we talked with spoke Shugani, Tajik, and in our case, English as well. Russian is also taught in school. When we got to Murgab, Kyrgyz was thrown into the mix as well, but more on that in another post.

Khorog is a jewel of a town, thanks to the patronage of the Aga Khan. As you probably know, he is the socialite, race-horse owning billionaire who lives in London and, through his lineage directly from Mohammed’s cousin Ali, is the head of the Muslim sect, the Shia Ismailis. The Ismailis are found in pockets in several countries, including the Pamirs of Tajikistan. The Aga Khan Foundation spends millions and millions each year on development project and supporting these communities. As a result, the city of Khorog has the most reliable electricity supply in Tajikistan. They also have a better than average (for Tajikistan) hospital, a private high school of top notch quality in a country known for its bad education system, and lots of support money for the locals who want to study abroad. They also have a Central Park. However, His Highness Prince Aga Khan cannot help the weather and hasn’t done much for the roads, so about seven months of the year, the only way to get to Khorog from the rest of the Tajikistan is by plane and the folks live mostly on potatoes and carrots and other root crops. (By the way, the Aga Khan first came to my attention as a young’un when Prince Aly Khan, son of the then Aga Khan, married Rita Hayworth. That would have been the father of the present Aga Khan. Normally Aly would have inherited the position of the Aga Khan from his father, but instead, the old Aga Khan passed the position onto his grandson, who is the Aga Khan now.)

If you are interested in the Ismailis (it is a fascinating branch of Islam), here is their official website:

Children (mostly boys) swim in the free public swimming pool in Central Park in Khorog, Tajikistan. Hot weather in Khorog is in the low 80s, while the capital city of Dushanbe swelters in about 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Central Park is lovely with gardens, green spaces, and a swimming pool. The park is located next to the Gunt River, which flows through town and into the Panj River just out of town, the border with Afghanistan.

The Gunt River flows through the city of Khorog into the Panj River, the border between Tajikistan and Afghanistan.

Khorog also has one of the more interesting statues of Lenin that we have seen in Tajikistan. I love his pose. Just like in Khujand, the Lenin statue has been moved from the place of honor in the city and replaced by a statue of Ismoili Somoni, the new national, ideological, hero. However, in both towns, Lenin did find a new home, in a less auspicious place. We saw Lenin statues all over Tajikistan, unlike in Uzbekistan. There, Lenin has disappeared all together.

We stayed at the Boni Jamon (means Roof of the World). It is less than two years old and the cheapest hotel in town. For $20/person/night you get the normal hard bed, a private bathroom (a luxury at this price) with hot water shower and sit down toilet, breakfast, and as concierge, a sweet young woman who speaks English. Some rooms also comes with fleas (after the first night, David had to change bedding) or a rat (one of our traveling companions was visited in the night, but we didn’t have that problem.) We recommend it.

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16 thoughts on “Pamir Mountains June 17-27, Part 2. Khorog

  1. Sara Pfannkuche

    I would so swim in that pool. It looks huge and inviting although I assume used relatively infrequently by women. One question, why is this Part 2? Is the market Part 1 (although it is not marked in that way)? Just being trivial. Had no idea that an Aga Khan had married Rita Hayworth. You learn something new everyday, even on-line!

    • Sel

      Hi, Sara,

      Aga Khan was not married to Rita Hayworth, but Prince Aly Khan who was Aga Khan IV’s (current Aga

      Khan) father and Aga Khan III’s son.


      • I pointed this out to her as well on a private email (Sara’s my niece). But thanks for commenting so anyone else reading will not be confused.

  2. Pingback: Tajikistan as Seen by an Ex-pat Blogger · Global Voices

  3. Madina

    Great entry…Thank you

    • Your welcome. Glad you are checking in with nancystan. I will have lots more Tajikistan posts after I get home — tomorrow!

  4. Pingback: Tajikistan as Seen by an Ex-pat Blogger :: Elites TV

  5. Pingback: Pamir Mountains June 17-27, Part 2. Khorog « nancystan | Ismailimail

  6. Bomi Jahon

    still do not understand the purpose of the author…..

  7. Mr. Toojik

    Dear Nancy,

    Well narrated the area but the incident of dog seems common. I have been to these area in 1993 and that was the worst period of TOOJIKISTAN. Because the same year internal conflicts destroyed the economy of this great country.

    The people of Toojik are friendly and their love for music and cultural are exemplary for the rest of the Globe. Sorry I betray from the topic, such incident happened with one of our colleague in Khawaja Aoob Be Gram. Thanks God we were in the Govt, delegations so immediate treatment was provided but still I remember his frighten for the days we been together.

    I am from Gojal but our ancestors came from Ghuroun Toojikistan villages near to Khorog. My son is the 14th generation of BO BO SUFI of Afgarch 8 KM from Moorkhoun on the old way to Shumshal ;Way to Khoroun Khu near Boiber and Puryar. I am based here in the Capital of Pakistan from the last 30 years and working for Oil and Gas Co, of Pakistan. Most of the people of Pomir Knot are either Toojik or Khergez being in the living life of shepherd or marginalization agriculture.

    I still remember my trip of Toojikiston and love the places of central asia.


    Inshallah hope to visit this part of the world……… looks absolutely fascinating, nature at its best.

  9. Nargis

    good article but some words are written incorrect..Overall very interesting!!!! I’m Pamiri myself..

    • Nargis, thanks for the comment. Please let me know which words are incorrectly spelled so I can correct them. Nancy

      • Nargis

        Dear Nancy,
        here are the correct words: Bomi Jahon, Shugnani and Gund River.
        Thank you for visiting Tajikistan and writing this article. You are most welcome to visit Pamirs anytime you want.
        All the best,

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