After spending a week in Dushanbe doing nothing but eating, relaxing, and generally being a lazy bum–something I figured I deserved after my scary brush with altitude sickness–I felt a burning desire to get outside the city and explore. Luckily, the small town of Hissar lies just to the west of Dushanbe. Nothing special as far as towns go, it redeems its paltry first impression with an awesome 16th century fortress.
As seems to be the case on weekends in Central Asia, there was a wedding going on when we arrived. Two massive horns, a large drum, and countless clapping hands and warbling throats created a cacophony of celebration as we tried not to get in the way. After the steps cleared, we headed into the fortress.
In the heights of its former glory, the fort once contained a palace, pool, and garden, all of which have been lost to time. Now, only the stunning gate and adjoining twin towers remain. Work is being done to recreate the wall, as well as a caravan-serai inside.
Together with my friends, Gautier and Yuki, I climbed up and down the stairs and peered into just about every nook and cranny. The one area we left alone was a mysterious pit in one of the towers. It must have been 6 or 7 meters deep!
As we tried not to laugh, we witnessed a woman descending a steep and gravelly slope in a pair of heels. She gave a lukewarm recommendation for the view from the top, which was enough for us. We scrambled up and took in a nice view of the fortress, caravan-serai, two madrasahs, and the valley behind. Then, just as we unpacked our lunch, it started to rain.
Luckily, Yuki had brought an umbrella and the rain wasn’t altogether that bad. Only slightly damp, we finished and headed back down to wander through the grounds again. In the golden light of the setting sun, the buildings were even more beautiful than before.
Before leaving, we walked through both of the madrasahs. One is home to a number of people, so we only explored that a little–pausing just long enough to dance on the roof as another wedding kicked off down the street. The other madrasah is home to a museum still under construction. Funded by the US Embassy, it celebrates the 3000 years of history Hissar boasts.
In September 2015, Hissar will have a big gathering to celebrate its 3000 years of history. For all of you planning on traveling to Tajikistan soon, check it out!
- Catch shared taxi number 8 heading north on Rudaki. Tell the driver “Zarnisar Bazaar”. It will cost 3 somani per person.
- At the bazaar, find one of the minibuses with ‘Ҳисор’ on it. Alternately, start saying “Hissar avtobus?” and someone will point you in the right direction. The ride will cost 3 somani per person.
- In Hissar, ask for the ‘qala’ (fortress). A shared car will cost 2 somani per person.
All prices are current as of October 2014!