After 2 days in Samarkand, the group arrived in Tashkent in the afternoon and we did a leisurely walk through Independence Park, observing some national monuments and a public fair.
By the memorial to veterans, there are gold plated books listing all the names of Uzbek soldiers that have been MIA and KIA during World War II.
Afterwards we said our next round of goodbyes to Patricia, Chris, and Johnson, who were leaving for Hong Kong and Singapore today.
The next morning the group got up and began our drive to Tajikistan. After about 3 hours on the road, we reached Oybek and the first round of passport checks to depart Uzbekistan.
A couple of things to know:
- Remember the customs form you had to fill out twice when you arrived in Uzbekistan? And that they took one during customs and let you keep one for yourself? I hope you didn’t lose that piece of paper! You need to present that same form when you depart Uzbekistan while also filling a new identical one here. They will compare to two to check if you’re carrying the same or less amount of foreign currency than when you first came in.
- To reiterate, make sure you list the same foreign currency on the departure customs form as you did when you arrived, and with that said, make sure that amount is less than what you arrived with. Otherwise they’ll keep the difference for themselves!
After they let you through here, they’ll inspect your luggage at customs, more out of curiosity than to look for anything to particular. For example, guard was interested in asking about the medicines I was carrying; others may want to look through all your photos on your camera to make sure you didn’t take any photos of military or policemen while in Uzbekistan.
Then you line up on another line to get your passport stamped out.
After that, they set you out on foot…
…to walk across No Man’s Land…
It’s about a lonely 10 minute walk to the edge of Uzbekistan.
After the Uzbek border guards wave you goodbye, you’ll come across the green coated border guards of Tajikistan.
Don’t get too nervous as these guards are much more relaxed and friendlier than Uzbek’s border guards.
At this point you fill out two identical custom forms exactly the same, where they inspect your passport, ask if you’re carrying more than $10,000 USD, and take one copy of your customs form while you keep the other for your eventual departure.
Then you keep walking to another building where they stamp your passport into Tajikistan.
After that, a bunch of cabs will be waiting for you at the border to take you to Khojand, about a 30-45min drive away. You’re now in Tajikistan!
Khojand, formerly known as Leninabad during the days of the USSR, is famous for being the farthest point that Alexander The Great’s ever reached in his conquest of Central Asia, and where he would set up his northernmost outpost, Alexandria-Eskhate.
His settlement still exists today in the form of a modern-day military citadel, where on the southwest corner houses a small museum that acts as a basic primer on Alexander The Great and Tajikistan.
After an hour at the museum we headed to the Sheikh Massal ad-Din complex facing the Panchshanbe Bazaar.
The mosques on your left are part of a religious plaza built in 1394. The 21m minaret here was built in 1865.
The bazaar on the opposite side of the mosques is a huge hall reminiscent of the Stabroek Hall market in Guyana, although instead of a British-Guyanese mix, Panschanbe Bazaar is imposing Stalinist architecture with a subtly Arab touch.
Afterwards we drove over across the river to the 22m-tall statue of Lenin that was moved here from Moscow in 1974 when Khojand was formerly known as Leninabad. It was then moved again from overlooking the river (and replaced by a statue of Somoni, father of the Tajik nation) to a quieter location in the suburbs. We found it anyways.
For dinner one of our monsooners, Siavash, was able to arrange a local family friend to host a Tajik feast for us where “anything you want, we’ll have it.” This included live music, unlimited vodka, wine, dishes re-served with less fat (literally), and after-dinner shisha. Hospitality at its finest, to the point the group stayed for nearly 4 hours.