On the road between Istaravshan and Dushanbe, The ancient Sogdian ruins of Penjikent perfectly perched above the Zeravshan River are the only remains of a once rich and mighty trading post. Sites of the citadel, suburbs, cemetery and bazaar are still visible, having grown in the fifth century before its sudden abandonment three hundred years later. The best of the fresco and carved-column treasures have been carted away, but you’ll see what greatness was once here and wonder why such a rapid rise and decline might occur. You’ll imagine a million reasons, no less than the ferocity of invading conquerors and tyrants, however, that no one built on the old site for the last 1200 years is perhaps the real mystery. It’s a beautiful spot to learn of Tajikistan’s ancient past and to, as ever, bask in the glory of the country’s mighty geography.