Istaravshan's blue-domed mosque and madrassah complex of Kok-Gumbaz

Istaravshan's blue-domed mosque and madrassah complex of Kok-Gumbaz

The old city of Istaravshan melds in with abrupt Soviet architecture, but the ancient, intricate minaret is an unmistakable tower amongst it all. Behind some propaganda murals decorating the length of an old block of flats, the minaret is striking for its symbolic levels of finely crafted brickwork and appears as if carved from wood. Venture around the minaret and by the surrounding mosque; note the Persian-style, carved wooden pillars and fretwork, and the stars, crescents and spires adorning the Islamic-themed plumbing. All the while you’ll be accompanied by an inquisitive gaggle of local kids.

A slow amble through the labyrinthine alleys of the Shahr-e-kuhna, or old town, of Istaravshan is to explore its old way of life and scatter of architectural treasures - the working blue-domed mosques, medressas and tombs, and the painted ceilings within, speak of history still seeping through the present, as does the main bazaar laden with traditional handicrafts and traders. However, an invitation inside a private home is perhaps Istaravshan’s most unique and delightful treat –Tajik hospitality is unsurpassed for its generosity and pleasantness, and will ensure you’re well taken with the locals and reminded of humanity’s better self. The town is renowned for inviting strangers in for tea and its delicious grapes - sharing these with Tajik hosts are lucky moments you’ll long treasure.

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