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Where in the world is Sheryl?

Sheryl Shapiro is a freelance writer and photographer based in Boulder, CO.

Greetings from Khojand, Tajikistan.

Arrived here yesterday from Uzbekistan, crossing the border at Konibadam. Border crossings are interesting. First you must pass through the exit procedure of the country you are leaving. They look at your passport, currency declaration, and registration slips that account for each night you stayed in the country. Because we've been staying at "official hotels," the hotels give us these slips of paper. Had we been camping or in private residences, we would have had to register w/the police in each city.

Then after exiting one country, you walk through a "no-man's land" of about 300 meters between the two countries. Upon entering the police check in country #2, they check your visa, stamp it, and let you through if all goes well. The soldiers manning the posts have all been very friendly so far.

Tajikistan is supposed to be the poorest country in Central Asia, but so far we've seen more Mercedes than anywhere else. Lots of "biznessmen" doing who knows what kind of business. They are always very vague about that, but it's usually some sort of trading, generally illegal, I suspect.

We're here because of the huge Thursday market. The covered market is in a purpose-built cavernous structure, almost like a train station. Inside are long rows of fruit, vegetables, spices, and all sorts of foodstuffs. Upstairs are small shops selling imported foodstuffs. Outside are more stalls with potatoes, onions, pasta, car parts, eating places, and all sorts of goodies.

Last night we had dinner at the apartment of a young woman i met at the department store. She, her mother, husband, and a friend took us home and stuffed us w/plov, a rice dish with raisins, carrots, and some meat pieces on top. Before dinner, the table was set w/cookies, bread, raisins and honey. By the time the main course is brought out we've already eaten enough but in the interest of being polite, i ate the plov too!

Tea is the drink of life here, at least for me. Several times a day i drop into a small restaurant or chaikhana (teahouse) and drink a whole pot of scalding black tea. It keeps me hydrated and in the hot weather, my theory is that it cools me off a bit by making me sweat even more. I've been drinking the tap water mostly, but you can't go wrong w/boiled tea. Cold drinks are scarce here - there are lots of soft drinks, like colas, but they're rarely cold and usually nasty. There is a dearth of fruit juice so far in the countries we've been in. Unlike Iran and Afghanistan where you could buy fresh-squeezed juice on every street corner.

Leaving for Dushanbe, the capitol, tomorrow. Our first experience on a Central Asian airline, Tajik Air!

Please feel free to write, as it helps me know if these emails are in fact getting to everyone.


Tajikistan has completed its transition from the civil war that plagued the country from 1992 to 1997. There have been no major security incidents in recent years, although the country remains the poorest in the region. Attention by the international community in the wake of the war in Afghanistan has brought increased economic development assistance, which could create jobs and increase stability in the long term. Tajikistan is in the early stages of seeking World Trade Organization membership and has joined NATO's Partnership for Peace.