We have thoroughly touristed Dushanbe, including our last venture outside of the city to the Hissar Fort. Almost any website associated with tourism in Tajikistan will feature the reconstructed gates of the 18th century fort, used until 1924 and destroyed by the Red Army. Behind the gates, you can climb through the foundations of what remains of the real fort and up some hills for good views of the surrounding mountains. It was a hazy, winter day so many of our photos do not reflect the gorgeous snow-covered mountains that we could see.
After you are done clambering around the fort, you can cross the street to the 16th century medressa, now a museum. A 17th century medressa is also across the street, deserted now. And behind them is a mausoleum for Makhdum Azam, a 16th century Sufic teacher.
The adventure of all this is that we managed independently, without speaking Russian or more than a few words in Tajik. First, we walked about two blocks to Rudaki Avenue and stood on the street (about 3 minutes) until a #8 shared taxi came by and took us to the Zarnisar market on the west side of town, not far from the US embassy. (While there are the taxis we are used to, Dushanbe also has a system of numbered taxis that run specific routes. They are three somonis [60 cents] per person for anywhere on the route. Although they are more expensive than the buses and the maruschkas [vans], they are a lot more comfortable since the top number of passengers a taxi can hold at a time is four.)
At Zanisar market, which is also a gathering place for lots of transportation, you find another shared taxi to take you to the town of Hissar, which is 30 km (18 miles) to the west of Dushanbe. We found one who gave us what we thought was a reasonable price (60 somonis, $6 each) and we didn’t have to share the ride. Plus, he took us all the way to the fort, which is another seven kilometers from Hissar. To get home, we first took a two somoni ride back to the town of Hissar, and then got a taxi to take just the two us back to the Zanisar market in Dushanbe for only 25 somonis ($2.60 each. I think we got “robbed” for the ride out.) Then, back home on a #8 taxi.
While on the subject of taxis, let me praise the taxi drivers and other drivers in Dushanbe. I heard that they were “crazy,” But except for one young man today who tried to drag race against another taxi on our way to Zanisar market, they have been good drivers who drive at reasonable speed and respect pedestrians and other cars. They may take a few risks passing slow vehicles on a major road on a curve, but that’s nothing compared to what I have seen in China, Indonesia or Italy. And, as a pedestrian, I feel safe crossing the street and cars have even stopped to let me by.
Since there is nothing left of tourist interest in Dushanbe until the spring when the open-air tea houses and bars are in full swing and trips out of town to some gorges for good scenery are worthwhile, we are ready to get going to Khujand. May it please be soon.