Thursday, April 2, 2015

Khujand. Around the Citadel Walls.


We spent the rest of first day in Khujand seeing some of the city's sights. Khujand is the second largest city in Tajikistan, after Dushanbe which is the capital of the country.

Khujand is one of the oldest cities in Central Asia, dating back about 2,500 years. It is situated on the Syr Darya River at the mouth of the Fergana Valley and was a major city along the ancient Silk Road.


After lunch, we piled back into the van and headed towards the city's oldest remains which are those of a citadel originally built in the 10th century and reconstructed in the 13th century.

Along the way, we made one quick stop - at the edge of the Syr Darya River where there is a memorial to prominent historical figures of Tajikistan.  Kai told us the names of each of the persons but I can recall any of them!



In all honesty, what really caught my attention was the stunning turquoise green color of the water.  The city of Khujand is spread across both banks of the river.  Tall mountains provide a lovely backdrop.



We got back into the van and drove by a park.  I could see the reconstructed walls of the citadel as we whizzed by.


Zarif could not have driven more than a half mile before he stopped and we got out of the van again.


In front of us was a large entry door leading to a museum that we would visit later.  We followed Kai on the path running alongside the walls of the reconstructed citadel.  The path wound its way through a park that was recently opened but is still under construction.  Everything we walked past was brand spanking new - even the pavers on the pathway looked pristine!



We made our way towards a newly built, small mausoleum and a statue.  The statue is of Kamal Khujandi who was a famous Sufi and poet who was born here.  One would presume that he is the namesake of the city.

 
I recall correctly, the mausoleum is really just a symbolic mausoleum meaning there is no actual body entombed here as Khujandi is entombed is present day Tabriz, Iran. Instead, where there would usually be a tomb is a small box containing a small amount of earth brought back to Khujand by a Tajik official who went specifically to retrieve it.  I guess this was intended as a symbolic reminder of one of the cities most important historic figures.


Men were still working on the memorial so we carefully walked around them to have a closer look at the memorial and to peek inside the room.



The room and box containing the bit of earth retrieved from Iran.


It was a cool day today but nice and sunny.  Pat and I were well dressed and I enjoyed my time in the park.

From the mausoleum and monument, we crossed the park to what I would describe as an ethnographic museum of sorts. 


We past through the entrance to enter a small courtyard.  On either side were small rooms, each furnished and decorated in traditional Tajik style.  It's way to have a glimpse what Tajik homes looked like before the Soviet era and therefore, to help preserve Tajik culture.


I absolutely love the vibrant colors though I'm not sure what it would be like to actually live, on a daily basis, with all that whirlwind of design and color all around me.  It might be a bit dizzying for me - I'm not used to it.



Even the exterior woodwork harkens back to Tajik traditions.  The complex of rooms is still being constructed.  I could smell the polyurethane on the wood as I walked past the carved wood windows.


In one room, there was a loom - massive thing.  I couldn't quite figure out how to work it.


There was also a kitchen which looked like it was being used by people working in the museum. I don't think they had green plastic Thermos bottles back in the day :-)  No doubt, it has a long way to go before it will look like a pre-Soviet era Tajik kitchen!


From here, we made our way back to our starting point.  It really was a lovely day for a walk so Kai took us around the long way.

Workers were out and about putting finishing touches on just about everything in the park.  When it's all done and years from now when the trees and plants have fully grown and the fountains running, this will be a very nice city park!

Khujand also braved through an exceptionally cold winter this year so many of the flowers that had been planted had been covered over to protect them. Women were busy removing the plastic sheets and the rocks that had been used to weigh them down and then hauling the rocks away in wheelbarrows.  Where were the men?


Our stroll took us through the older section of the park where there was a row of pretty fountains.  If it had just been me here, I would have found a bench to sit on and people watched.  After a couple of dreary days in Tashkent, I was relishing just being in the glorious sunshine!


Back where we started was actually one of the reconstructed gates of the citadel.  Today, it's the entrance to the Historical Museum of Sughd, a regional history museum in Khujand.


Oh, I am not a museum person so I am always a bit reluctant to visit them - especially small city museums.  Generally speaking, they really don't offer much of interest to me.  As we entered and Kai got us our tickets, I just hoped it would be a quick visit....a really quick visit.


In the museum's foyer floor was a very unusual looking globe.  Surprisingly, all the lettering was in Arabic, not Cyrillic.

Dominating the foyer was this very large (4 meters tall) statue of Timur Malik, an important figure from Tajik history. Timur was a local resistance leader against Genghis Khan in the thirteenth century. He established a fortress on an island in the Syr Darya River, from where his archers took to battle against the mighty Mongols. Legend has it that the Mongols placed chains across the river, but Timur cut them with his sword. In the end, Timur ran out of supplies and the Mongols conquered the Tajiks.


We started our museum visit on the lower level.  The dimly lit room displayed murals of inlaid stone on all four walls as well as on one section of the floor.  The work is that of a local stone mural artist.


When Kai told us that the murals were depictions of scenes from the life of Alexander the Great, I thought it was a bit odd at first until I remembered that this region was once occupied by Alexander the Great when he established a settlement here.




The were also a couple of dioramas of Stone Age and Iron Age life and some archeological findings, an indication that this region was inhabited as far back as those two ages.


Oddly, there were also a copy of the horse column and winged bull from Persepolis, a place that I hope to visit one day.


I've not been able to figure out how all the basement exhibit items fit together.  Perhaps, it has to do with ancient times in Khujand??

Back up stairs, Kai walked us around the exhibits which had to do with more *modern* times in Khujand's history aka the Soviet era.


I was more interested in what was beneath my feet.  The floor was glass covering over section of the excavation site of the citadel.  It was obvious that the artifacts had been deliberately laid out but I found it an interesting way to display them.


There were a few displays highlighting the works of Tajik/Persian writers, poets and politicians and some interesting black and white photographs of days gone by.



Visit to Citadel.  Check.  See memorial complex to Khujandi.  Check.  Visit ethnographic museum.  Check.  Visit regional musuem. Check. Now, we get to go to a place I truly enjoy - the bazaar!