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First steps into Central Asia
February 2010

tajikistan Flag Tajikistan: The citadel of Hulbuk Flag tajikistan

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David watching the city of Florence

After a few more passes though mountainous landscapes we arrived to the small town of Kurban–Shaid.

It’s known for the mighty Palace of the Governor of Hulbuk (also spelled Khulbuk), an ancient administrative and cultural centre from the 9th Century.

The site has been proposed by the Ministry of Culture of Tajikistan to the tentative list of Unesco’s World Heritage sites.

The site is outstanding so it probably will make it to the list. Also, this will help for the restoration and reconstruction works.

Click here to read about Hulbuk on UNESCO's website.

The citadel, palace and old Mosque are currently being restored and there’s still a lot of work to do.

To this day, only the main façades on the west and south sides have been restored and partially reconstructed.

Some more than 1000-year old bricks still remain.

I have always imagined myself wandering though the mosques of Samarkand or Khiva.
Someday I hope I can get there, and Hulbuk was a great preview.

There was a complex heating system on the citadel, which is explained at the nearby museum.

By the way, you have to be careful when walking on the citadel ruins; you don’t want to fall down the hole of the heating system!

There is small but very interesting museum in front of the citadel.

First it displays pictures of Emomali Rahmon, the current Tajik President, with several world leaders.

Then the historical part begins, with artifacts found on the citadel.
Those include vases, ceramics, jewellery and weapons.

Half of the original gate is displayed, as well as some columns.
But there are some even older relics displayed: ceramics from the First Century and a very Chinese painting.
The Chinese briefly controlled the area after Alexander The Great (which means more than 2000 years ago) and this is part of the small heritage they left.

The museum is very interesting but the lack of funds to preserve the goods is obvious (lack of signs, objects unprotected which can be touched...).
It’s a modest museum housing some priceless treasures.

Some kids were playing soccer in front of Hulbuk’s Palace.
The main gate was closed but they came to us to show us the way in, by climbing the northern side.

They’re not really used to see foreigners, and they were happy to share a moment with us.
Farhod served as interpreter so we could communicate.

The kids asked me to take a lot of pictures from them and they posed joyfully for my camera.

In some other countries, kids would have demanded some money after that.
In this case it was the opposite! They wanted to know how much it would cost to have prints from my pictures!

Unfortunately I don’t have a Polaroid camera so I couldn't print them on the spot. Also, there was no photo laboratory around... But anyway I promised the kids that they would have those pictures.

So next day I went to a photo laboratory in Kulyab (the next big city, where we were based) and I printed the pics.

When we got back to Hulbuk, we were lucky to meet one of the kids on his way to school.

He was so happy to see those pics... I gave them to him and he promised he’ll give them to his friends.

Those moments are the ones that make a trip unforgettable!

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Central Asia Travel Guide

Central Asia Travel Guide

Borat may not have been the most savoury of ambassadors, but at least he shone a light on Central Asia. With a history starring Alexander the Great, a landscape featuring snowcapped mountains in Tajikistan, and semi-nomadic Kyrgyz herders to hang out with, why wouldn't you go?

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