Travel journal: Tajikistan
PhD candidate BRENTON CLARK explores the chequered history, the ancient culture and the budding tourism industry of the little-known country of Tajikistan.
Bordering Afghanistan to the south and China to the east, in what was once the former Soviet Union, Tajikistan is a country of stunning mountain scenery with a fascinating, albeit tragic recent history.
Although Tajikistan often escapes the attention of the wider public, I have long held a deep fascination for the country which has witnessed the rise and fall of countless empires, has been the sight of interchange and exchange between the Indian, Iranian, Arab, Turkic, Chinese and more recently Russian civilisations, and has managed to keep its unique cultural traditions alive despite constant hardship and outside encroachment.
I journeyed to this enigmatic country to get a better understanding of its political relations since independence for my PhD.
As part of the trip, I interviewed local Tajik academics, politicians, and key observers and explored the capital, Dushanbe and other regions of the country.
Having studied the region for a number of years and shared in the knowledge of my colleagues and the academics of the Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies, I had a good idea of what to expect when I got off the plane from Dubai.
But in a sense I was perhaps expecting the worse.
Living in and travelling around Tajikistan was surprisingly easy, and the people were some of the friendliest I had ever encountered.
I spent most weekends hiking, running, eating and exploring my way through the capital, Dushanbe, and had the opportunity to travel to the northern regions of the country.