On The Trail of Alexander the Great, Tajikistan, September 2018

My final jaunt through Tajikistan has taken me to the capital Dushanbe and then on to the north. Dushanbe translates as Monday, and when this was previously a sleepy town the weekly market was held on a Monday hence the name. During Soviet occupation it was chosen as a regional capital of ‘Soviet Turkestan’ and promptly renamed Stalinabad. After the death of the old tyrant the towns people reverted to the old name Dushanbe.

I have spent 4 days trekking in the Fann Mountains in northern Tajikistan. This is picturesque landscape with jagged grey sheer cliff faces, peaks blanketed in snow, slopes dotted with pine forest and chains of azure and turquoise lakes that keep beckoning you over the next mountain pass. The colours and clarity of the lakes are simply stunning and it was a joy to hike in the area.

But it has been at Khojand in the north that my imagination has been inspired. This was another of Alexander the Great’s key cities in his Asian empire after defeating the Sogdian King in the 3rd century BC. It was the northernmost post in his empire and he renamed it Alexandria – the – furthest. The next closest city again was Alexandria – on the Oxus in ancient Bactria where I visited the remains of his fort in Balkh, Afghanistan last year. The more than two thousand year old relics from this empire are scattered among tiny museums including coins and sculptures, but my heart was stolen by a tiny carved  portrait of Alexander himself on a piece of ivory found at Khojand.

Fann Mountains, Tajikistan

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