TAJIKISTAN – Dushanbe to Gorno Badakshan Province – Khorog.

World Enough Observed……  connecting with the people                  

contact:    nizarharji@shaw.ca 





Passion for travel far and wide to experience and understand the world and the creation
with all its diversity has been a learning process. This is about one of the many journeys to over 60 countries.

Setting out from Tashkent in Uzbekistan after journey to Bukhara and Samarkand, the political tension between Tajikistan and Uzbekistan would not allow  border crossing of vehicles and  local people of each side. The border crossing by foreigners had to be undertaken by foot, dragging along your suitcase to get to the otherside.  Not an easy task.

Photo above in the middle of the journey over the Pamir range along the Pyanj River
and the border of Afghanistan, passing through high altitude. The unparalleled scenery
beckons for those willing to tough-out the gruelling over 20 hours of journey by jeep with
uncertain road conditions and no facilities on the way.  This certainly is not for casual comfort tourism. Anyone following this road will have the added thrills to know that
“few foreign devils” have passed this way. For over 100 years the area was closed to the outside world first by the Tsarists Russia and then the Soviet Russia, until the collapse of the Communism, when the Central Asian countries gained their independence.

There are over 250,000 Ismailies in the whole of  Mountain Pamir region.

Tajikistan had gone through a bloody civil war between the Central Government in Dushanbe and the Province of Gorno – Badakshan when they came under total embargo for food, medicines and daily living necessities. The Province was being starved for their insurrection. AKDN was ferrying round the clock bridge of heavy Vehicles transporting food and medicine from Kyrgyzstan in Osh along the China border into Gorno Badakshan Province. These aid was distributed free to the population in the region
irrespective of their faith. The large heavy vehicles were clearly marked  “Aga Khan Transport”.  Talking to many non-Ismaili people on the way, they were expressing utmost gratitude for their survival on the aid from “The Aga Khan”.  The civil war has formally ceased  after the mediation by Hazir Imam (The Aga Khan) with the Dushanbe Central Government and legal Autonomy of the Province of Gorno Badakshan ,with AKDN (Aga Khan Development Network) undertaking  Economic development in the Province.  Hazir Imam (The Aga Khan) had urged the people and to his followers to lay down the arms and peace will be established with the Central Government and the economic uplift will be undertaken by AKDN.
In the photo above on left Mr.Nakruz , the owner of the Jeep decided to join me on the journey. Mr. Nakruz is a lawyer by profession and an Army instructor. This made it easier, the middle of the dark , muddy and rain, frequent Army check points along the road, with Army badge of Mr.Nakruz, he was being saluted and an easy passage for us.



Before the start of the journey, visit to the Medical University in Dushanbe. Above in discussion with girl students. Very smart and modern outlook. Very patriotic and ready to serve the Nation.


with boys Medical Students. They have very open mind  with their enquiry on the situation in North America.  They love their country and ready to serve.






The Head of Tariqua Board in his office in Dushanbe. A very lively discussion and his immediate need of setting up Computers and the trainers.




The new ISMAILI CENTRE  in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.   The Islamic concept of natural light, water , open space and architecture is beyond description. Designed by Canadian architect Farouk Noormohamed. It, has large facility for meetings, students Baiyul Ilm  and separate space for Jamat Khana.



In the Dushanbe city, with elderly seniors on a siesta chai break in a contemplative mood.
Meeting people of different lands there is lot to appreciate and understand.



A brief stop on the journey to meet with the locals.  Each encounter speaks a lot about the people. Language is never a barrier nor their custom.



On the route a stop over at the village, a wedding celebration was in progress.
The good natured and very kind people did not hesitate to invite me to join them.
Here above taking part in their festivities to the great joy of these wonderful happy people.



It was exhilarating for me to be accepted by all of the people as an instant friend and as one of them. They wanted to have photos taken and one can notice the happy smiling faces.

People everywhere have the same desire to have a happy, safe and  peaceful life in their own culture and contented in the simplicity of their life.  It was a great feeling and experience  for me to be among them.



With the Bride and Groom.



After 0ver 10 hours on the treacherous winding roads, past mid-night isolated and extreme cold and no sign of life around,   we suddenly noticed a dwelling and decided
to take a chance to knock on the door, outside a sign board reading “Mountain Development”.  Lo and behold…it turned out to be a guest house owned and operated by
an Ismaili person and his son  photo above (his wife had expired).  It was a project of AKDN supporting entrepreneurs to make a livelihood.  It was a saviour at that time in the middle of night.  It was a long conversation next day at breakfast  on  the Mulaquat of Hazir Imam to this area known as “Yoged” .  The village is an Ismaili strong hold, mostly land owning subsistence farmers.



I was introduced to many Ismailies in the village. They invited me to their home to have fruits, nuts, bread and chai. The elderly man with the hat  (second  extreme right) was appointed by Hazir Imam during his visit,  as head of the community in the village with a title of “Rai”.  It was very interesting conversation they wanting to know about Canada and Ismaili Jamat. Language was not a barrier as the young man at the guest house spoke perfect English and could translate easily.



Next day before departure to continue the journey, I was invited for a lunch in a beautiful setting next to the river.   The Ismailies in the village are very devoted and wonderful people.


A bridge connecting Tajikistan with Afghanistan, project of AKDN. Every once a week people from each side come half way to the bridge bringing their merchandise to “Barter” their goods and return back to their side.



The bridge is guarded all the time for security and strict control.



Above Serena Hotel in Khorog (with only 5 Rooms)  eventually we reached Khorog in the dead of the night, exhausted, hungry and sick. It is definitely not a journey to be taken lightly.



A street scene in Khorog. The big building on the extreme left is “Aga Khan School”.



People very well dressed walking on the street of Khorog. Population 90% are Ismailies.




My little friends.
Young Ismaili  school boys smartly dressed at the Aga Khan School in Khorog. Children at the school are very passionate to study. They are very motivated. They learn computers at early age.




Very smart and sharp young Ismaili boys and girls at the Aga Khan School, Khorog. All the children at the school are very enthusiast to study.
A happy time with  my little friends.



Charming  Ismaili students sporting proudly green and red colours. Very motivated in their studies.




The Head of the Aga Khan Education Services in Khorog. It was very revealing and enlightening to hear the functioning of the school for the very young boys and girls.



With a teacher in the class room. Very attentive students.


The teachers elderly and highly qualified trained under the Soviet system. Their approach to teaching is with affection towards the students as opposed to the western style of schooling.  Talking to them it was heart warming that there still exists such wonderful human beings with sole desire to impart education with care and affection to the young ones.



With librarians at the school. Young children making use of library.

Library at the school is well organised but I was told it lacks western educational materials and publications  suitable for young ones.



Home work is done meticulously under the watchful eye of the teacher at the school. Children do their lessons in a group.



The specially constructed dais for Hazir Imam (the Aga Khan) during his visit to Khorog has been preserved.



A prominent person in Khorog  Dr. Alimohamed Rajput who oversees all aspects of the Jamat. His house above was used as Jamat Khana ,until the new ISMAILI CENTRE AND JAMATKHANA now opened within a big park setting adjoining a river.



An Ismaili wedding in Khorog.


I was fortunate to be invited to the Ismaili Wedding and reception.
Above in the photo with Bride and Groom.



Wedding reception and festivities.



Wedding reception with abundance of food variety according to the custom.

With continued efforts and Blessings of Hazir Imam , the quality of life of the Jamat has greatly improved and stabilised. It is a very happy Jamat. There are approx.30,000 Ismailies in Khorog and surrounding. It is a dynamic Jamat,  more so now with the University of Central Asia  Khorog Campus in operation and the newly opened  Ismaili Centre and Jamatkhana in a  beautiful fabulous park setting,  a unique Islamic concept award winning architecture designed by Farouk Noormohamed of Canada. The Khorog Jamatkhana can accommodate maximum 1500 people, different group from different area of Khorog take turn to come to Jamatkhana.

Hazir Imam’s vision of Khorog as a “Jewel of Pamir” in time to come which he described during the laying of the foundation stone of the Ismaili Centre. An economic development plan by AKDN is under way with facilities for tourism, ski-resorts , hotels, roads infrastructure.

The beauty of Khorog surrounded by Pamir range is  gorgeous.  I was told by the General Manager Ms. Rita of Serena Khorog, that when Hazir Imam stayed at the hotel and walking in its garden he remarked to Rita    “This is Paradise,   This is Paradise”.




At the end of the journey, flying in small Tajik Air from Khorog to Dushanbe. It was flying not over the Pamir range of mountains but within in between the mountains, a harrowing experience , but highly skilled pilots to handle these small machines.







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