Journey to Tajikistan, part 1:  My father

Photos courtesy Manizha


Our good friend and new writer, Manizha, agreed to work all summer on a series of articles taking us “inside Tajikistan”.  It is truly a gift to have a “little-known” country opened up through the eyes of a native.  We are very grateful to Manizha for this wonderful opportunity.

MY father was an archeologist.  He studied the history of the Tajik nation and land.  For many years our family lived in the capital, Dushanbe. But two or three months of the year my father worked at an ancient archaeological site called Sarazm.  

     In the north of Tajikistan is Penjikent city. Near Penjikent, in 1976, the oldest settlement in Tajikistan, called Sarazm, was discovered. Sarazm means the “beginning of the earth” in the Tajik language.  The age of this settlement is 5500 years. It became a worldwide sensation. 

     My father’s best friend was the supervisor of the site and he invited my father to the site to work and for his consultation. 
My father was a professor, a doctor of history. My father worked several years there during the summer and our family would go to be with him there. When I was 12 or 13 years old, I and my brothers and sister went with our mother to visit him there for the first time. 

    When I first visited the Sarazm site I was thrilled because this site was very interesting. I was able to touch walls that are more than five thousand years old. The supervisor of the dig (my father's friend) showed us the finds. These were fragments of walls, pottery, coins. Some things are very well preserved. We were allowed to hold coins in our hands. This is an indescribable feeling.

     Then we went to the field kitchen for lunch. We ate roast meat with potatoes and a salad of fresh vegetables. We went to the home of my father’s friend also. His wife and children welcomed us very warmly. They had a large cherry orchard and we picked cherries from the trees ourselves and ate them with pleasure. We had fun playing and swimming in the pool. It was a wonderful summer.

    I also watched the specialists at the site.  There were maybe 10 or 12 of them who worked to uncover this ancient city.  In the summer students from university would also come to work because it was wonderful practice for them. And Soviet, French and American archaeologists took part in the excavations as well. The historical and cultural artifacts have been well-preserved. There is a palace and religious buildings, public and residential buildings, jewelry made of precious stones and sea shells from other countries. 

     The next year we went again to be with my father.  That year we visited with my father a beautiful and wonderful place called “The Seven Beauties”.  In this place there are 7 lakes and there is an old legend about the lakes.  In ancient times in this place lived 7 sisters and a big dragon!  The big dragon wanted to marry them but the sisters ran away from him.  As each sister ran away, she turned into a beautiful lake. All the lakes are truly incredible.  Each lake has its own unique color. The water in the lakes is very, very cold.  It is actually impossible to swim in them because they are so cold.

     Every year we learned a lot about the history of Sarazm.  Archaeologists believe that about the 4th millennium BC traders first passed through Sarazm to trade the valuable lapis lazuli stone.  Later people came with tin and it was called the “Tin Way”.  Then the Great Silk Road passed through Sarazm from Europe to China and India. 

     About 3000 years ago, due to changing, natural conditions, life in Sarazm stopped completely.  People left for other regions.  Now Sarazm is a historical and archaeological reserve.  In 2010 Sarazm was included in the UNESCO world heritage list. —Manizha

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