Navorz-holiday in Buchara

April 4, 2006

 

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For Uzbek and Tajik people Navroz is one of the most important holidays during the year. It’s the time, when winter will be told farewell and spring is coming to town. Officially there are two days for celebrating the custom: 21st and 22nd of March. This is what we were sure about. But almost out of nothing the Tajik government announced two additional days one week before the commencement of Navroz. I fortunately already possessed an Uzbek Visa, which are difficult to obtain, and decided to continue my previously started round trip through that neighbor country. At 20th of March I started with Nicolas, a colleague form ACTED (French NGO). A taxi brought us to the border at Turzunzade and we crossed without difficulties.

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We organized a taxi to go to Samarkand. But we didn’t know that Jiguli with gas tanks do not go up the mountains quickly. It took us 9 hours instead of 5 to reach Samarkand! But the trip was funny. To lower the fares two Uzbek joined us and after several control posts between governorates – where our driver had to pay bakshish as much as one person fare – we had our evening meal, cincluding 2 bottles of vodka…

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In samarkand we stayed at least two days, visited all available sight and met two friends of Nicolas. Romin and Cristin, who are working with the French embassy in Teheran. They had already organized a round trip through UZB and invited us to join their tour. I enjoyed for the next days the French way of life: eating and talking for hours, tasting good wine, having aperitifs, going to one more bar for a last beer… and we even found a Jazz Bar in Samarkand. Very good food, moderate prices and good music!

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When we traveled further to Buchara, we passed plain, steppe country side. And Buchara is marvelous! The city has still it’s old architectural heritages and an old city. Though it has already been prepared for tourists, one can enjoy the atmosphere for days, if not weeks. And I even found a hammam, something that I miss now for two years.

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The last days of our vacation we spent going back to Samarkand and organizing an affordable transport opportunity. And, luckily, we met one colleague from the German House in Dushanbe, who offered two spare places in his car. We reached Dushanbe on 26th of March, preparing for the start of the new week…

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A business trip to Uzbekistan

March 11, 2006

Local transport

During the week from 02nd March to 08th March I had the opportunity to travel to Uzbekistan. I started in Dushanbe by plane, what itself has been more than an adventure. The planes are old and even the seats are not properly fixed anymore – so one starts to discover the meaning of religion again during the flight. But luckily landed in Khojand it took me some minutes to recover. I continued the trip through the Fergana-Valley with a DED-colleague to the Uzbek border and changed the care after finalizing the custom procedures. A DED-colleague from Tashkent took me to the Uzbek capital, where I found a marvelous accommodation in a spare expert’s cottage.

Tashkent is a harsh contrast to the small and provincial capital Dushanbe. Tashkent inhabits more than 3.6 Mio people and has been considered in soviet times as one of the cultural centers of the union (there is the second “Bolshoi Theater” of the former union). The night life is more active and the consuming behavior is already well established.

Having breakfast

Two days later – after the duties were done – I continued with two colleagues to Yangikishlog. This is a tiny village situated between the Kyzylkum Desert, the Aidarkul Lake and the Nuratau-Mountain, where a UNDP workshop was held by the steering committee of the local program towards the establishment of the biosphere reservation. DED contributes to one component of the project through the placement of an expert. I used the opportunity to make some field studies for a short report on the project.

DED expert during workshop
On the road to Samarkand
The next morning we left that beautiful place heading southwards through the mountains to reach after three hours Samarkand, the famous city with lots of Islamic ancient heritage. Because we had only limited time and the stop has not been included in our official mission, I visited just the Registan complex and some minor site located close to it. But it’s impressing, though re-built after severe earthquake damages, war and just the time passing…

Registan in Samarkand

Registan in Samarkand2

Registan in Samarkand3

We stayed overnight in Sharizabs – a somehow remote provincial town on the way to Termez – and tried the local brands of beer. The evaluation result reveals only little enthusiasm for intensifying the amounts of consumption, though a few sorts are enjoyable.

Amir Timur in Sharizabs

Marketplace in Shakhrizabs

The remaining journey on our last day led us through beautiful countryside of south Uzbekistan, close to the border of Afghanistan. Except some sheeps, cows and village dwellers, we did not encounter any Mujahedin or Taliban. We assume they predominantly left southwards to Pakistan, where they can stir up the religious masses more efficiently than in the former soviet countries. The regimes here strictly prohibit the expansion of any social-islamic movements. I have listened to a muezzin just once during the last two months. Any Islamic engagement will be smashed immediately if it’s getting public, like it was obvious during the recent Andijan-Events in Uzbekistan, where officially hundreds and in-officially thousands of demonstrators were killed through gunfire into the masses.

We finished our round-trip crossing the Tajik border at Tursunzade and reached after one hour Dushanbe.

Spring in Uzbekistan

The first two months in the country

March 11, 2006

Well, the first two months passed quickly and loaded lots of work… After completion of an annual working-plan for the public relation activities of the DED in Central Asia the first urgent measure had to be taken. The website was set up, the concept of an information brochure about the German Development Cooperation in Tajikistan has been elaborated and approved by all stakeholders, project appraisals had to be organized, an information brochure on Tajikistan and Uzbekistan for the future arriving experts has been written and produced and much more has been done, so there was only some little space to precisely continue my blog. But a lot of things happened, though. The most important: the winter has gone and the sun melts the last remaining snow-pits in the mountains. The formerly brown and grey foothills around
Dushanbe turn to be light green with little yellow dots and big pink-blossoming trees on it. Now it’s time to warm up the cold bones from the winter (we had once -10 degrees in the city and limited heating only).

I have changed my former accommodation, though quite comfortable but pretty expensive. I share a flat with Paul – an Australian, working with ORA /
Germany – and enjoy once more the feeling of flat sharing. The style is not that luxurious, but it covers the basic needs.

While working long hours during the week, it’s nice to enjoy skiing facilities in Takob, close to the city. Only 60km by car, we use the last remaining ski-lift of
Tajikistan on 2500m altitude to go down by snowboard and ski.

Der Frühling kommt...

Silvester in Tajikistan

January 5, 2006

Just arrived in Tajikistan at the 30th of December 2005 development workers kidnapped me for a ski ride in the mountains to celebrate new year’s eve. Though it was freezing cold on 2.500 meter elevation, we had much fun and it was verz joyful.

2.5 hours north from Dushanbe by four-wheel-drive to the mountain vilage Takob. There is a tourist ski-station with accomodation opportunities over night. Don’t pay more than 25$ for accomodation, ski rent, food, sauna per day. The place was in former times a Russian facility, but ater 15 years of declining infrastructure it looks now rather remote. Also in the summer time a wonderful place for trecking and climbing.

Training in Germany

December 14, 2005

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