Before leaving Khujand I visited the modern mosque built during Soviet times.
To the left of the Soviet mosque is a mosque and a mausoleum from 1394. Then there is a new mosque.
During the Soviet era Islam was suppressed however since independence 1380 mosques have been built through private donations. My guide said it is expected wealthy people build mosques and so they have. This outpouring of construction is a sign of the rapid rebirth of Islam.
The early morning was spent in the Panchshanbe Bazaar which was by far the most animated thus far. Lots of smiles and welcome inviting me to sample food. And sample I did!
The question: where you from? was like a litany. And when I said: “America” it was meet with a thumbs up and a smile. There were no shy folks but eager to have photos taken. You are made to feel so welcomed.
On out way out of the city to the border we stopped by three monuments.
The warrior Timur Malik who battled against the Mongol invasion. This monument replaced that of Lenin which was relocated.
Then a monument that was dedicated to those Tajiks who lost their lives in the 10 year war from 1979 to 1989 when the pro-Soviet Afghan republic was threatened by the rebels. My guide pointed out that the US supported the rebel Mujahideen which after the war became the Taliban who were taught in the Saudi-backed madrassas. He said the Tajiks did not want to be involved in this Afghan civil war. Then they had to years later fight these same Islamic extremists who wanted to establish an Islamic republic.
Then we saw the statue of Lenin that was relegated from prominence.
After the border crossing, I went to Tashkent. This city was a major intersection of the caravan routes.
When imperial Russia arrived on the scene in the late 19th century they laid out a new city when they drained a swamp and established a new city they hoped would rival Saint Petersburg.
The new city is impressive. The boulevards are wide and treelined.
My guide also took me on the subway. A travel companion remarked we were on TV to which the guide remarked the security is high. I noticed there are police all around in the metro. Ever since 1999 Islamic terrorists exploded car bombs. My tour guide said that they fear Islamic extremists so security is heavy.
The day concluded with a tour of the synagogue, a Russian church, and the Catholic church.
Walking around the city you get the feel of a modern European city. ALthough it is predominately Muslim everyone dresses in western dress. Tomorrow I will explore the old city. When people heard I was going to central Asia there was concern for my safety since I would be so close to the Afghan border. I have felt perfectly safe and have been made to feel at home by the warm welcome I received wherever I have been so far.