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Kazan: Legendary city of Genghis Khan's Golden Horde

Traveling in Tatarstan along the Volga River in Russia............................Ramdas Iyer, 2013


As the train was getting cold, our conductor was shoveling coal into the furnace that kept our carriage warm. Since this coach was cut off to be picked up by another train, a coal furnace was provided for each carriage. This was a non-elite passenger train that connected Yekaterinburg to Kazan, the capital of Tartarstan. My fellow passengers was a young family of Tartar Muslims coming home to Kazan for the winter holidays from the oil fields Of Northern Siberia. Traveling on the Trans-Mongolian and the Transiberian, I was living the modern version of Genghis Khan and his assault of Europe in the year 1252.
The Mongol Empire emerged from the unification of nomadic tribes in the Mongolia homeland under the leadership of Genghis Khan, who was proclaimed ruler of all Mongols in 1206. The Mongol Empire which existed during the 13th and 14th centuries, was the largest contiguous land empire in history. Originating in the steppes of Central Asia, the Mongol Empire eventually stretched from Central Europe to the Sea of Japan, extending northwards into Siberia, eastwards and southwards into the Indian subcontinent, Indochina, and the Iranian plateau, and westwards as far as the Levant and Arabia.
By the time of the great Kublai Khan's death ( grandson of Genghis, Emperor of Mongolia and China under the banner of the Yuan Dynasty ) in 1294, the Mongol Empire had fractured into four separate Khanates or empires, each pursuing its own separate interests and objectives: the Golden Horde Khanate in the northwest; the Chagatai Khanate in the west; the Ilkhanate in the southwest; and the Yuan dynasty based in modern-day Beijing.
The history of the Mongol Empire has always fascinated me and in my travels I have seen many of their conquered lands and read about the history of different Khanates: Khiva( Uzbekistan and Khoresm), Ilkhanate (Iran, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan), Mamaluk( Egypt and Turkey) and the Chagtai Khanates( Kazakhstan, and Russian Steppes of Central Asia).
This article is about Kazan, the focus of my journey that belonged to the Golden Horde Khanate. It was ruled by Juchi Khan, son of Genghis and expanded by his son Batu Khan. At its peak the Golden Horde’s territory extended from the Carpathian Mountains in eastern Europe to the steppes of Siberia( See Map). On the south, the Horde’s lands bordered on the Black Sea, the Caucasus Mountains, and the Iranian territories of the Mongol dynasty known as the Il-Khans.

That December morning of 2013 was quite chilly on arrival at the Kazan station, a very ornate building built in 1896. I soon arrived at my hotel on the grand boulevard Kremlivskya, a walking distance to the World Heritage Kremlin which I had primarily come to visit. The population of Kazan is equally divided between mild practitioners of Sunni Islam and orthodox Christianity. The old city has some beautiful churches including the Cathedral of Peter and Paul, which is one of its most valuable architectural monuments. Built on an elevated site it is built on the Russian Baroque style of the 17th century. I caught my first site of the mighty Volga river from its steps in its frozen splendor just a few miles away.

Having arrived around 4:00 AM on that cold winter morning , my anticipation and excitement kept me from falling asleep. Leaving my hotel at day break, I took a quick look around the Kremlin and was excited at the prospect of spending more time visiting the palaces, mosque and churches inside. The Kremlin dominates the city. Built on an ancient site near the Volga, the Kazan Kremlin dates from the Muslim period of the Golden Horde and the Kazan Khanate. Archeological excavations on the territory of Kazan Kremlin provided evidence that the first fortress of Kazan was founded at the turn of 9th-10th centuries by Volga Bulgars. In 1438 Kazan became the capital of Khanate of Kazan, in 1552 the city was conquered by Ivan IV and became a significant and integral part of the Russian state.
The Tartars (or Tatars) controlled the trade routes between Scandinavia and the Caspian Sea and extracted tributes from Russian rulers and other Christian enclaves that was in their vicinity. Tired of Muslim aggression and the demands for tributes over the Eastern Orthodox Empire, Ivan the Terrible amassed an army of 150,000 soldiers and launched an attack that would permanently weaken the Islamic/Mongol-Turkic dominance of the Volga region. Muslims were massacred, converted or exiled to Siberia. This ethnic cleansing was one of the most severe in Russia only to be paled in comparison by the deeds of Stalin in the 1930s.

The Kazan Kremlin was built after the siege of Kazan on the ruins of the former Bulgar/Mongol castle. Ivan built many churches in Kazan and it became the Christian See of the Volga Land. Today, the only surviving Tartar fortress in Russia the Kazan Kremlin consists of an outstanding group of historic buildings dating from the 16th to 19th centuries, integrating remains of earlier structures of the 10th to 16th centuries. The site and its key monuments represent an outstanding example of a synthesis of Tartar and Russian influences in architecture, integrating different cultures (Bulgar, Golden Horde, Tatar, Italian, and Russian), as well as showing the impact of Islam and Christianity.

Lyudmila, an English tutor in the University of Kazan moonlights as a guide. She arrived at my hotel around 8:00 AM and we were off to explore the city by foot. Within 1/2 a kilometer I came across a campus of ornate buildings with post modern Soviet buildings ringing its outer perimeter. I had arrived at the well known Kazan University, that began over 210 years ago. Lenin and Tolstoy attended classes while scientific research yielded new discoveries such as Ruthenium, popular methods for petroleum extraction and above all the science of magnetic resonance. Since Lyudmila had access to the buildings I chose to visit all the historic buildings from 200 years ago. This was not a part of my tour and it turned out to be very enriching. Moments such as these are only possible when traveling alone. The administration building had a museum showing the dresses of royalty, military personnel and professors over the years. They had curated a fine collection of scientific and literary dioramas showing the University's achievements. Despite visiting several prestigious schools in the USA, I had not seen something even close.

The Chemistry department was thrilled to note that I was a Chemical Engineer and gave me several publications in Russian, to take back with me. The University administrator personally showed me the halls where lectures, sometimes attended by the Tsars and nobility, were conducted. I even got to sit in the classrooms of Tolstoy and Lenin(expelled from the University of Kazan for revolutionary activities).
Another mile from the University was the historic Kazansky street with a large pedestrian shopping street that one would encounter in western Europe. This part of Kazan had been destroyed and rebuilt to showcase this city that has a future. There were many Tatar restaurants serving spicy lamb, dumplings and all kinds of Turkic foods that reminded me of my time in Kashgar in Xinxiang Province. We had a delicious meal costing no more than $5 for the two of us. I visited the magnificent Cathedral of Epiphany of Our Lord, the seat of the Russian Orthodox church. However, it became the gymnasium of the Universe of Kazan University in the 1950s during the peak of the revolution.


It seems to me that many ideological philosophies such as Communism and fundamental Islam have one thing in common. A penchant for destruction of civilization and preventing the evolution into arts, architecture and the sciences. In Russia, China and now in the Middle East, the silent victims of such creeds are some of the historic monuments once built by great conquerors and rulers whom the world remembers as game changers. I have shed many a tear for the number of monasteries burnt in Tibet, Buddha images desecrated in Xinjiang and Shaanxi provinces and magnificent churches reassigned to the common man for mundane purposes as in the Soviet Union and above all the execution and debasement of scientists and scholars everywhere. This does not include many Shamanic and Tribal cultures whict stood against their oppressors.

The Mongols under Genghiz Khan destroyed 500 years of learning in Central Asia in the 14th century, the Uzbeks under Timor cleaned up where the Mongols left. The raids into India, first by the Afghans then by Turks and the Mongol-Turkic Mughals destroyed many parts of an ancient land from the 12th to the 19th centuries. The Greeks and the Spartans and the Romans and the Persians were no better. The Jews were persecuted as long as there has been history. Yet despite all these wanton destruction, now in the 21 st century, we have still not learned from our past mistakes and crimes. Yet mankind has a penchant to survive these calamities with grit, guile and perseverance to allow someone like me to visit and review our past history in all these previously ravaged areas from China to Russia to Central Asia to the Middle-East and India.

With such thoughts in my mind I walked along the banks of a tributary of the Volga that cuts Kazan city into two; the old Islamic section and the European section. My first stop was the Islamic center established in the 1700s to understand the severity of Islam followed there. Islam in Russia has been clobbered into submission and at this point it is in synch with other religions of that nation. I fanned through the neighborhood of beautiful old houses, some in poor repair while many were being rebuilt to the specifications of their original splendor. When compared to the European side, it felt like being in the bad sections of Istanbul. After sampling some street foods I took a local bus to visit the banks of the mighty Volga; Europe's longest River. Its banks have played a major role in history including being the home to 11 of Russia's largest cities located in its watershed. This river was home to the Proto-Indo Europeans- land to the early Aryans; Iranians, Scythians, Parthians, Kushans , Mongol-Turkic tribes, Huns and the later settlers like the Tatars and other Turko- Finnic Tribes.
The Volga in winter has an ice thickness of 8 to 12inches. Every winter, a highway is cut across the river to avoid a longer route to gain access to bridges. This was a common sight I saw all over Russia especially on Lake Baikal were trucks of all kinds were seen navigating through frozen lakes with large surface areas
Reserving most of the following day for the Kremlin (Russian for fortress), I set off to see the magnificent fortress, only 500 meters from my hotel. Built on an ancient site, the Kazan Kremlin dates from the Muslim period of the Golden Horde and the Kazan Khanate (13-15th centuries)


From the 10th to 13th centuries Kazan was a pre-Mongol Bulgar town. For the uninitiated reader, the Bulgars were a semi-nomadic warrior tribe from present day Kazakhstan steppes. They are a group such as the Aryans, Scythians and Huns who left the eastern Steppes of Siberia and moved westward around the 7th century AD( due to Chinese aggression). The Bulgars eventually split into two groups; one moved along the Volga river( Volga Bulgaria) while the other took refuge along the Danube river ( today's Bulgaria). The Kazan Kremlin hill consisted then of a fortified trading settlement surrounded by moats, embankments, and a stockade. A stone fortress was built in the 12th century and the town developed as an outpost on the northern border of Volga Bulgaria. They practiced a pagan religion with strong influences from Christianity and Islam .
The fortress was demolished on the instructions of the Mongols in the 13th century. A citadel was then built as the seat of the Prince of Kazan, including the town's administrative and religious institutions. By the first half of the 15th century, the town had become the capital of the Muslim Tatar Principality of Bulgaria, with administrative, military, and trading functions.
Having survived repeated destruction first by the Mongols in the 13th century, and the Tsarist Russia in the 15th century Kazan's modern desecration came at the hands of Stalin in 1922. The ensemble of historic buildings lost many of its compositional dominants, which were pulled down on by the communist fanatics-the belfries of the Annunciation and Savior- Transfiguration Cathedrals, the church of Cyprian and Justinia, the Savior-Transfiguration Monastery complex, the dome of Bishop's House, and the domes of the Annunciation Cathedral. The Kremlin however retained its status as a centre of Soviet state power and as garrison.

Well maintained, this masterpiece of Russian architecture is yet another achievement by Postnik Yakovlev most famous as one of the architects and builders of Saint Basil's Cathedral on Red Square in Moscow (built between 1555 and 1560). According to legend, Ivan the Terrible blinded Yakovlev so that he could never build anything so beautiful again. However, this is probably a myth, as Yakovlev, in cooperation with another master, Ivan ShirIai, designed the walls of the Kazan Kremlin and the Cathedral of the Annunciation in Kazan in 1561 and 1562, just after the completion of St. Basil's.
Spending time inside one of the many beautiful churches, especially the Church of Annunciation, I could not help but realize that I was also walking over the fallen remains of the Khanate's army. Eight Christian churches were built over the remains of thousands of Muslim warriors by Ivan the Terrible..Many unearthed tombstones are displayed inside the Kremlin. Visiting places such as Kazan, one tends to reflect on imperialism and its effects the world over. The Museum of Islamic Culture and The History of Statehood of Tatarstan within its confines helped me understand the gradual reemergence of Tatarstan in the 450 years past the wake of its destruction.
After forcibly converted or relocated to Siberia in the 1500s, the Tatars got their first foothold under Imperial Russia when they were given increased rights as citizens in the 1700s during the liberal reign of Catherine the Great. By the 1860s a Tatar language newspaper was circulated in Kazan and other Muslim areas of Russia.
The Bolshevik revolution of 1917, during when Russia was in a civil war, forced the Tatars to join the Bolsheviks. Under the new Soviet rule the state of Tatarstan was ruled under TSSR ( Tatar Socialist Republic), where they were repressed again due to religion conflicting with communism. With the ultimate fall of USSR, Tatarstan liberated itself as an independent entity in 1990. But not wanting to face the problems of Chechnya in the Caucuses region which came under the weight of Russian aggression under Putin, Tatarstan decided to be an autonomous region within Russia and in 1994 became the Republic of Tatarstan.

The spiritual mosque of the Tatars, Qol Sharif, which was razed to the ground by the armies of Ivan the terrible was rebuilt in 1996, mostly funded by Saudi Arabia and UAE. Today it is the largest mosque in Europe located adjacent to the historic Church of the Annunciation, inside the Kremlin. Tatarstan is an unusual example of a Russian region where the majority of the population is Muslim, but where interethnic and interfaith strife is rare. According to the latest census, 52.9 percent of Tatarstan's 3.8 million inhabitants are predominantly Muslim Tatars; 39.5 percent are predominantly Orthodox Christian Russians.

On Kazan, Nikolas Gvosdev, a Russia expert and professor of national security studies at the U.S. Naval War College, believes "
"This is a brand of Europeanized Islam, westernized Islam, that is Islamic yet functions in a Western society. As part of the ongoing engagement of the Muslim world, there could be benefits there.".
In conclusion, I must confess my fascination with the history of the Eastern and Western Steppes region with my readers. It is one of the most neglected portions in history text books of western learning, but in my opinion one that has shaped mankind. This history starts with Genghis Khan and the Chinese states, Mongolia, Indo-Europeans, Turkic peoples, Scythians , Parthians, Huns and Kushans It also includes the history of the Silk Road, Ottoman Empire and that of Persia until the conquest of Asia Minor by Alexander.


After witnessing ancient sites as a companion to reading written history, I boarded my train to Moscow 500 miles to the west. Staying a walking distance from the Red Square on the old Arbat street, my first foray was to see St.Basil's church built by Postnik Yakovlev who also rebuilt the Kazan Kremlin.

The End.

emailme @ ( riyerr@aol.com)


UNESCO web site
Foriegn Affairs" Russia's Muslim Reality"- Vasily Rudich


Posted by Ramdas Iyer 16:03 Archived in Russia Tagged kremlin church the of golden university russia state khan kazan ivan horde volga mongols tatarstan tartar tatar terrible bolgars ukazan genghiz tartarstan qol sharif annunciation chagtai Comments (2)

Traversing the Pamir-Alai High mountain range in Tajikistan

In the shadows of Alexander the Great.....by Ramdas Iyer


In the spring of 329 BC, Alexander the Great's conquests brought him to the river Oxus, which today forms the border between Afghanistan and Tajikistan at the city of Termez( in Uzbekistan) He was on his way to India and beyond. Having crossed the Oxus and captured Bessus ( murderer of Emperor Darius of Persia), Alexander took fresh horses and set off for the royal capital of Sogdiana, Marakanda (Samarkand). From Marakanda, Alexander marched north to the river Jaxartes (Syr Darya) where the Macedonians were attacked by Scythian tribesmen who were also defeated. The victorious Alexander founded a city on this site, Alexandria Eschate “Alexandria the Farthest” today's Khujand, in northern Tajikistan.
My story here retraces the path of Alexander from Termez( Uzbekistan) to Dushanbe( capital of Tajikistan) and over the Alai-Pamir ranges to Penjakant (Tajikistan), a great Sogdian city( of Zoroastrian faith) and onto Samarkand, the magnificent silk road city. The route traversed the 18000 ft Anzob peak and the magnificent Karakul Lake, a place visited by Alexander when he landed there in search of his beloved horse Bucepahlus, that got lost in the mountains.

These routes and cities are very common in history books and have been discussed at length by the Greek historian Arian including the instructors at West Point Military Academy. My travels along the Central Asian silk route in the winter months of 2009 intersected with that of the campaign trails of Alexander in Termez (southern Uzbekistan/Afghan border), Penjakant( Tajikistan) and Samarkand (Central Uzbekistan)in this trip taken in 2009 and also in Persepolis, Hamadan(Ecbatana) and Teheran while in Iran in 2014.Leaving Termez, I spent the worst harassment by Uzbek border police while I tried to make the land crossing into Tajikistan. Short of a strip search they tried to match my declared currency value against what I really carried on my person and luggage. After 2 hours of questioning, and dictating a confession letter stating my unintended currency carriage violation, I was finally released. In line with expected "democractic" norms I was offered a lawyer to take my case to court that was recessed for the weekend ( 200 miles from any population), so I had to give up close to $400 in cash . But I still had money stashed in other areas that they did not search because a reasonably decent officer stopped an impending strip search. As a US Passport holder they did not harm me but put pressure on me similar to our own US border guards who use intimidation, harassment and the "law". The other reason for this unfortunate event was propagated by the closure of this crossing to commercial traffic due to a brief war between Tajikistan and Uzbekistan over an ill defined border in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union . This closure prevented kickback money from flowing to the guards from truck drivers.
Crossing the Uzbek border and arriving into Tajikistan, the mood was entirely different. The border post was laid back and my guide and driver were waiting for me with great concern for my welfare.

A little Tajik history will help the article to movie forward smoothly; The entire Asia Minor landmass including current day Turkey, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Northern Egypt, Iraq, Iran,Syria, Afghanistan till the,western border of India was a part of the Persian Empire for 700 years. The Tajiks speak a dialect of modern Persian, unlike the Uzbeks who speak a Turkic-Mongol dialect as a result of Genghis and Timor's dominance. The Tajiks are a beautiful and graceful people as opposed to the Uzbeks who take pride in the villainous ancestry of its heroes. In 1996, when in Ladakh, once an independent Buddhist kingdom in the Himalayas, I learnt that over 50% of the population were Muslim. Ladakh, now a part of Kashmir State of India, was a part of the sub silk route that moved goods to and from Srinagar in Kashmir to China, and Central Asia. When India was partitioned in 1947, an entire historic trade route connecting Samarkand, Dushanbe, Kabul, Kathmandu and Lhasa was blocked overnight. This left a huge population of Tajiks, Hunza-the Indo Europeans of the Swat valley and Tibetans to be stuck forever in India. This along with the polygamist and polyandrous practices of the mountain Muslims have transformed an ancient Buddhist community into a minority.


Crossing the border I arrived at the capital city of Dushanbe. It was well laid out with a strong presence of Soviet Union done right in its early days of socialism that was built on optimism and hope. The following day we left the beautiful city of Dushanbe and started hitting the slopes of the mountains that form the backdrop of this beautiful city. Tajikistan is home to some of the highest mountains in the world, including the Pamir and Alay ranges. 93% of Tajikistan is mountainous with altitudes ranging from 300 m (980 ft) to almost 7,500 m (24,600 ft), and nearly 50% of Tajikistan's territory is above 3,000 m (9,800 ft).
The massive mountain ranges are cut by hundreds of canyons and gorges at the bottom of which run streams that flow into larger river valleys where the majority of the country's population lives and works. The Pamirs in particular are heavily glaciated, and Tajikistan is home to the largest non-polar glacier in the world, the Fedchenko Glacier.
Due to heavy snowfall expected that day, we took on an additional driver to aid Mehrzad my driver who was highly experienced working the mountainous roads while a driver in the Soviet army during their occupation years in Afghanistan. My guide, the beautiful Yassaman, hailed from the town of Khojand- famous for beautiful women and the hometown of Roxanne, wife of Alexander the Great. Within reaching 8000 ft all the vehicles on the road were stuck in ice and snow. With skills not seen before by me, my drivers managed to free the Land Cruiser from its icy anchorarge using chains and planks while Yassaman and I trekked the amazing snow packed mountain scenery for over an hour. The road to the Anzob pass was carved through a glacier and I was quite surprised at the speed of road crews that arrived to rescue a host of vehicles, mostly Russian made, from the pack snow. The Anzob Pass 56 mi north of Dushanbe at roughly 11,000 feet (3,400 m), is one of the most treacherous mountain passes of Central Asia. On October 23, 1997, an avalanche killed 46 people, burying 15 trucks and cars. The avalanche was so large that it took two weeks for the would-be rescuers to reach the victims. Due to the importance of the route connecting the north to south and its level of danger, the 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) Anzob Tunnel was built, completed in 2006.
After crossing the pass I noticed the marked difference of entering a land unchanged for millenia, a land of ancient villages and a people trapped in unchanging customs and practices. This is what makes travel to these areas very special. We stopped in a road side tea shop whose owners agreed to cook us a meal. During winter nothing is open except for hot tea sold in small eateries. Much to our excitement delicious meat dumplings, Afghani bread and copious amounts of sheep yogurt was served. The atmosphere was something to die for. With a steep ravine exposing itself outside the fogged window, we all sat in an elevated platform (typical Persian influence) laid with a multitude of faded rugs with the meal served in common dishes where everyone picks from their quadrants.
We traveled past beautiful villages set amidst poplar and willow trees, which almost seemed integral to the landscape. I was shooting so many photographs that my guide informed me that we might not reach our night lodging- a Shepherd's house, vacated for foreign travelers passing through that village. Around 10:00PM we reached the house set near a bubbling icy brook far enough from the road that we could not take our vehicle there. The sky was like a planetarium with all the constellations and the milky way showing themselves in an explosion of star dust and celestial light. Till date, other than in the Sahel Desert in Mali, I have not seen such a sky, almost similar to that seen by the ancient Greek and Indian astronomers. The house consisted of the main room and two little rooms on the perimeter. The focus of the house was the main room which had the coal stove which also served as the room heater, on which tea is always ready to be served. The Sheppard, Malyik, was a nice young man whose wife had prepared a magnificent meal of dumplings, lamb chops, soup and over 15 other items for snacking. We opened the Vodka bottle that I had my driver procure in Dushanbe and toasted each other with tales from USA, Russia, Afghanistan and Tajikistan. My sleeping quarter was a private room with no heat. Over 10 blankets were layered on top of me until I couldn't move anymore. Visiting the distant toilet was a challenge but having to walk in the icy starlit night was certainly welcome.

The next morning, I was paraded around the village and shook hands with over a dozen bearded men who seemed very pleased to meet me. The name Shahrukh Khan, India's super movie star, was a universal name known to one and all in Tajikistan. Everyone whom I met would ask if I had met Sharukh Khan and I would answer that I was planning on it. Sharukh is a Muslim and widely revered in that Hindu country, a fact well noted by Islamic countries surrounding India, giving it a truly secular status.

Each time we crossed a small mountain village, introductions had to be made to the village chief. A kind of request for permission that only applies to the villagers who still adhere to an ancient custom. What was really scary is that Tajikistan has become a transit hub for heroin from Afghanistan. With a 1300Km porous border between the two countries, almost not policed, it is a major source of opiates shipped to Russia, Europe and China. At any given time I was never more than a few hundred kilometers from the Afghanistan border; an area ripe for transportation and distribution by all the major terrorist organizations including Taliban and Al Qaeda . Tajikistan went through a horrible civil war between 1992 and 1997 with atrocities that involved dumping people from cliffs, en masse.
However, the villages I saw were poor where people lived a dignified life, proud to be dressed in native clothing and not averse to display Islamic hospitality to strangers at every opportunity. While I can write many sentences on my trip through the mountains, I believe my accompanying photographs can show the mountain environment in greater depth.

Two photographs published in this article may peek your interest. In one, a dozen young ladies look at my car with curiosity. In the following picture, all of them turn away simultaneously upon seeing a man inside. In another amazing set of two pictures, you may notice a truck loaded with 30 plus men driving along the road. In the following photograph you will notice a young girl who was walking on the road dive for cover to hide her face from all the men in that truck.

These two events were an eye opener for me showing me that in places like rural Tajikistan, it would take eons for women to be truly liberated. However in Dushanbe I could see a very Russian oriented workplace where women played an equal role in all professions. In retrospect one of the positive outcomes from the occupation of USSR of the lands of Central Asia, is that women are more liberated than in other Islamic countries.
After 3 days of an amazing fairy tale journey through the mountains, I arrived in Penjakent the border town with Uzbekistan. Alexander the great defeated the Sogdian king in Penjakent on the way to Samarkand. There is another important snippet about this town that is very important to Zoroastrians. Islam finally conquered the Iranian plateau, a full 100 years ( 920 AD) after Muhammad challenged all the neighboring countries to follow Islam or perish under his sword. The last of the Zoroastrian kings, Devaschtich ruled from Panjakent until his kingdom capitulated to the" violence" or as some say "message" of Islam.
Panjakant is home to Aryan/Zoroastrian ruins from 2nd century BC and that of Bunjikanth, capital of the Sogdian kingdom (5th century AD -pre Islam). I visited these sites along with other Sogdian sites in Tashkent, in Uzbekistan. It is simply amazing to see the vastness of the Persian Empire and its vassal states even today. These locales are in the tentative list of future World Heritage sites.

On my last day in Penjakant I was in a home stay with a family who host foreigners. The lady of the house was traditional Tajik, who understood some english and had converted 22 of her good teeth to gold caps. Her makeup included conjoining the eyebrows to form a contiguous ridge over her eyes. Their young daughter of 17 was so lively and had all the aspirations of any modern young girl but it looked like she would ultimately succumb to her mother's wish of an early marriage to a local boy and continue life as a second class citizen,
That last day, prior to my reentering Uzbekistan, just like Alexander the Great did, we dined, drank, laughed and danced a lot, except of course to the movie music of Sharukh Khan. The End

emailme @ ( riyerr@aol.com)

Posted by Ramdas Iyer 18:30 Archived in Tajikistan Tagged the great alexander tajikistan termez Comments (2)

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