When I walked towards the Istaravshan market area on an early Tuesday morning, I noticed that the Tajiks were apparently early risers. The streets leading up to the bazaar were full of activity, and with rising expectations I entered the area through a large gate. Outside, few people had set up stalls on the streets, but it was inside that the real action was taking place. Covered plazas with row upon row of stalls selling meat and eggs, made me soon realize that I was in for a big market. Sure enough, the bazaar of Istaravshan turned out to be big. But the main attraction of the bazaar was its people. I had recently crossed into Tajikistan, and was still getting used to the Tajiks - but here, I found truly great and amazingly hospitable people. I was invited in for breakfast at one stall, trying to strike up a conversation with the limited help of concise Tajik and Russian phrase books. For a while, I stood in an alley to fully enjoy the early morning light striking the weathered faces of the Tajiks out for shopping.
But the most remarkable experiences I had with the vendors. It started with an older woman who begged to have her picture taken. I gladly obliged, as I had already seen her photogenic face. To my surprise, she thanked me for the photo, not just in words, but also by giving me apples and a few small cucumbers. I was bewildered and felt I should be the thankful person. This would repeat itself: vendors asking for their picture, making me take pictures of other vendors, but also passers-by pushing each other forward for a shot, or making their sweet little daughters pose, and then giving me whatever they had for sale. I ended up with a bag full of fruit, vegetables, and spices, had watermelon with the melon vendor and apricots, tea and bread with a group of old men in a Muslim prayer room. The bazaar gave me such a good feeling that I spent many hours just strolling up and down, taking new turns, striking up short conversations with many people.
The light was getting harsher, it was getting warmer, and people were leaving the bazaar when I finally decided to move on and explore the old toen of Istaravshan. On my way back, I could not resist entering the bazaar once more. Again, I was welcomed in the warmest possible way by very friendly Tajiks. I was invited to try more good things at the market, and saw sections that had escaped me before. I did notice that the market was less crowded than before, and realized that the bazaar of Istaravshan is at its best in the very early morning. As I was in for a long ride in a shared taxi, I made sure to buy some more fruit before I really had to leave, as I just could not get enough of the delicious cherries and apricots that were on sale in abundance.
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Istaravshan Bazaar (Tajikistan). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Istaravshan Bazaar.
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