On June 29, I traveled to a nearby city of Hisor with some of my fellow participants. We left around 8 am from the American Councils office. The drive there was beautiful, where I was able to see parts of the city that I have not explored yet. I saw trucks overflowing with watermelons, merchants yelling at pedestrians to buy their products, and energetic children running through alleyways, chasing after their friends in a game of (what seemed to me) tag. All of these are characteristic of a bustling city, emitting its obscure-yet-proud energy, in an area of the world rarely traveled.
Once we arrived in Hisor, surprisingly not far from Dushanbe, we could see the newly constructed replica of the ancient Hisor fortress. Believed to date back from the time of Cyrus the Great, the fortress has been conquered over 21 times, highlighting the immensity of time, history, and stories that have lived in this area. I felt humbled by the “timescape” of this area, for I have never been to a place so enshrined in ancient history. The replica is still under construction, but we were still able to climb its stairs and walls, enabling us to not only view the city from above but imagine all of the lives lived beneath the shadows of this imperial structure.
Behind the walls of the fortress are numerous little houses for artisans and gift shops, as well as a farm-like area. There were people selling rides on horses, which I was hesitant at first because I have never ridden a horse before (also is this vegan?). Nonetheless, three of us hopped on a very tame and loving horse and strolled around a little patch of land. I never would’ve thought I would ride a horse for the first time in Tajikistan, but hey, what is exchange for, if not firsts?
After exploring the fortress more and petting a camel on the grounds, we went to a museum in the historical madrassa. The information was entirely given in Persian, so it was a wonderful opportunity to learn about this place as well as expand my Persian skills.
While leaving the museum, our Resident Director was explaining his surprise that no weddings were taking place, because there are always multiple happening every time he has gone. Suddenly, three wedding processions walk towards the fortress, surrounded by music, cameras, and friends dancing around the bridegroom. I had two wedding processions ask me to join their dancing processions, so of course I could not resist an opportunity for another first in this country!
After laughing and celebrating these unknown couples’ weddings, we went to a very unassuming restaurant, which was surrounded by farms and livestock. This place is well known with the American Council’s staff, as it is believed to sell the best chicken.
As we left Hisor, I felt a strong sense of excitement. The excursion fueled my curiosity to explore more of this country, language, and people. Until next weekend!
By: Jeremy Slater
Program: Eurasian Regional Language Program
Term: Summer 2019