When I tell people I’m going to Central Asia later this month, I am frequently asked “Where is Central Asia?” To which I reply, “Central Asia.” Yes, Central Asia is a place. It is an area, like Europe. Europe is comprised of different countries and so is Central Asia. Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan are all in Central Asia.
This large area is bordered by China, Russia, Iran and Afghanistan. During the Afghan war, troops were first sent to Manas Air Base (now closed) outside Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.
“Stan” simply means “people.” So these countries are the lands of the Kazakh, Uzbek, Turk, Tajik and Afghan peoples.
Tajikistan was part of the Silk Road that included movement of ideas and cultures as well as goods from east to west. Later it was part of the Soviet Union. After the fall of the USSR, competing factions caused a five year civil war. Emomali Rahmon won the presidency in 1994. In 2016, a referendum changed the constitution to allow Rahmon to be president for life. He is the third president of Tajikistan. In May 2017, he shook hands with Donald Trump while Trump was visiting Saudi Arabia.
Dushanbe, the capital, is nestled in a valley at the confluence of two rivers. Dushanbe means Monday in Persian. In the past, the city was the place of a bazaar on Mondays. Dushanbe is a large modern city.
I plan on drinking tea in a teahouse in Dushanbe later this month. I look forward to exploring this little known country, it’s mountains and villages and updating this blog.
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