On the epic flight from Khorog to Dushanbe, Steve and I met two new friends, Colby and Mike, who were both expats in Dushanbe at the time. They arranged for us to stay with their friend Monet for a night in Dushanbe, which was really lovely of them. Monet is also an expat in the city and was house-sitting for the night in a lovely apartment with the cutest cat (who was just a little bit crazy!). Monet was able to give us some great insider-tips, and it was very interesting to experience the city from an expat’s point of view.
Dushanbe is the capital and largest city of Tajikistan. It’s also the least touristy capital in Central Asia, which is why we didn’t expect much of it before getting there. But we were very pleasantly surprised by Dushanbe! The city is BIG despite only having a population of 800.000 people and has a real modern feel to it. Generally, Dushanbe is considered the most beautiful capital in Central Asia, mainly because of its ginormous green parks, wide avenues and glorious buildings and monuments.
Before going to Monet’s place, we went to the house that Colby and his wife were living in at the time, which was actually owned by a US ambassador! The house had a lot of safety equipment such as bars across the windows, an escape room, and a high fence with spikes on the top to keep the ambassador, his family and his dog safe. I found it quite crazy, but I can understand why it would be necessary, since Tajikistan has seen quite a bit of civil unrest in recent years.
On the way to Monet’s, we dropped by a restaurant called Marco Polo, which was really fancy and the nicest one I had eaten at since my Asia travels began in March. We had A LOT of food, including awesome vegetarian dishes for me. I can definitely recommend Marco Polo for an upscale meal in beautiful surroundings!
After the dinner, we met Monet at the house that she was house-sitting, which was a really nice break from run-down hostels and homestays. It had everything that we had been praying for and Monet and the crazy cat of the house were great hosts.
After getting settled, Steve and I went for a little wander around the Rudaki Park, which is the central park with clean wide paths, numerous fountains and colourful flowers, and the place where every monument worth seeing is located, including the Statue of Rudaki, a poet who is considered the founder of modern Persian literature; the Statue of Ismoil Somoni, a 10th-century founder of the Samanid dynasty; The Gerb Monument with the State Emblem of the Republic of Tajikistan; Dushanbe Flagpole, the world’s second tallest free-standing flagpole at 165 metres, although with no actual flag on it; and the Palace of the Nation, the impressive presidential residence. The Rudaki Park is full of life and things to do and see, but still there are plenty of quiet corners to have a chitchat or a picnic break, which we also took advantage of.
I really liked the city in all its grandness, although I thought it felt less personal than Bishkek. The two cities reminded me quite a bit of each other, but if I had to choose a favourite, I would choose the underdog, Bishkek.
Our original plan was to spend an extra day in Dushanbe to relax and sleep in, which we really needed after those hectic days in the East. But since the weather forecast was showing rain and thunder for the upcoming days, we decided to postpone our relaxation to a later date and left Dushanbe early in the morning to escape to a cultural gem in Northern Tajikistan. Stay tuned!