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Published: June 26th 2017
Geo: 38.5654, 68.7758
Time Check: 1050 Tajiskistan TimeLocation: Hotel Guilistan Tour Room 602
Altitude check: 978m (on Hilary) but guide book says 760m! Need to recalibrate....
Catch Up: Yesterday (Friday) was a massive travel day. The rather good refurbished South Terminal at Gatwick seems light years away! After about a 1hr 30min delay sitting on the tarmac in a cramped and stuffy 737-800 apparantly due a to problem with the "SLOT".....a foreign type passenger in Row 9 got very agitated as he was catching a transfer at 1930 from Istanbul. The swarthy looking steward tried to reassure him by saying "plenty time if run"........then quite literally...."ever been Istanbul?"......."very lovely City"......"every day BOMB"......."Attack!" Eventually we took off and routed SW over Germany, Austria, Crotia and Bulgaria eventually swooping over the Bhosphorous down into Ataturk Airport.........
The cloudless early evening blue sky was turning a golden colour as we headed for Gate 702 dodging in between white saree clad women returning from the Haij pushing trolleys piled high with "bubble wrapped" merchandise. Istanbul is a cultural melting pot where East meets West to produce a wonderful cultural fusion.
Just enough to time to "pluck" a new tee shirt out of my back before we gave Candace our friend
from Boston a hug and boarded another Flight to Dushanbe. It was now 2100hrs.
Managed to get caught up in the dozens of locals returning from Ramadan/Haij celebrations - there were pious crowds with embroidered white robes and hats EVERYWHERE.
Dushabe immigration was a total free for all - the "other passport" booths were closed, so we were ferried to the "Tajikistan/CIS passport" queue which had about 4 queues going into it, then to the "Tajik Passports" only (and some into "diplomatic passports" with tutting and mutterings from the locals. The Haij crowds made moving anywhere tricky, let alone trying to get to the luggage carousel. Officials were checking suitcases against passports before going through the X-ray machine at the exit. Remember it was 3.45am by now and tempers were frayed. Manners were brought into question by two strangers having a bit of a contra taint about "common courtesy" only to discover a little later that they were both on our tour..... Great introduction....
After much checking and cross checking of paperwork by tight trousered Customed Officers we stumble out into the fug of a "3 in the morning" dusty airport campus lined with brightly lit clubs and sashlick stalls........the muggy air smelling
slightly of stale cheese and diesel. By this stage we were beginning to regret brining our "Bear Grills" no wheeled back packs. Each weighing nearly 20kg we are totally handicapped and reliant on the triangular shaped drivers to carry them for us!
We crash into Room 603 of the "Gotham Cityesque" dark brown and marble clad Guilistan Hotel just after 4am and fall into a restless sleep........the plan to get at least 2 hours sleep, meet up for breakfast and then a City walk......WRONG........we "creek" out of bed at 1000hrs and by this time the whole group had vanished.......
The Guilistan Hotel ain't bad.......once you have left the taps to run for 15 minutes to clear the brown rust out of the pipes.
Dushanbe is surrounded by high mountains and is a Soviet "Garden City" reminiscent of places like Volgograd and Odessa. It has huge tree line boulevards, well planned parks and grand architecture mixed with a good dose of tumbledown 3 legged dog stuff as well!. Tajikistan only gained it's independence 20 years ago and is asserting itself through grand public architecture and statues (not of Lenin) but poets and writers. You will all be familiar with the famous poems of
Time Check: 1515.......we are soon to head off out again into the baking hot afternoon sun........Russian "Macho Man" TV (the only channel on our TV) is on in the background .........this is a channel "where men are men".(swigging brandy out of blingtastic glasses) and women in impossibly high heels and sequin boob tubes cavort around them.......kissing their feet and helping them to tie their shoe laces before getting into Range Rover Evoques.........
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