Trekking in Tajikistan’s Fann mountains, center Asia’s ‘crown jewels’

A national preciou leading tourists for more than 20 times, Brownbook follows Niyozkul Nematov up into these historic peaks

Niyozkul Nematov is Tajikistans trekking leader, as one on-line travel place makes it, and something of a national treasure.

Eager to share fables and legends about his beloved Fann mountains, Nematov has been leading tours for more than 20 years with visitors often staying at his guesthouse, run by his wife Shoista.

Legend has it that at midnight under a full moon Bucephalus comes out of Iskanderkul Lake to pasture at its grassy beaches, he says. The glacial pond which takes its figure from Alexander the Great and is thought to be where the late lords pony, Bucephalus, drowned during combat is the jewel of the this central Asian mountain range.

When a full moon decorates it, neighbourhoods can listen the mare neighing across all districts of the mountains, Nematov says.

When he isnt leading tours, the mountaineer are available at his sons home in the capital Dushanbe, where he spends his eras experimenting lore about the mountains and its own history of Central Asia material that he will subsequently use to impress visitors.

But now, as the snows melting and the rain turns the juniper forests back to green, Nematov returns to his home in Panjakent to continue business.

Alongside
Alongside his wife, Nematov has been running a guesthouse for 22 years. Image: Parvin Saadati/ Brownbook

Shiosta
Shiosta and her son outside the family home. Photograph: Parvin Saadati/ Brownbook

Founded to promote environmental tourism in the two countries, Nematovs guesthouse and tours are among the most popular in Tajikistan.

Its a family affair. Shoista and their 24 -year age-old daughter, Bibijon, share responsibility for looking after guets. We are the people innovating travellers to Tajik practices and institutions, says Bibijon, whose English skills have established her Nematovs right hand, looking after travellers when he is busy with bookings while moonlighting as a dressmaker.

Shoista plies clients with traditional Tajik recipes. Her menu includes plov, a national recipe composed of representatives of rice with fried veggies and meat, as well as manti, a steamed meat-stuffed dumpling and shurpa, a hearty stew.

She makes the visitors very happy, Nematov says.

Adventure

The mountaineers treks reach from three to 10 days, catering to different levels of know-how and age group. Most of his visitors, around 100 parties each summer, he predicts, are European.

Some trekkers are in their late teenages, for whom he organises marches that are a little more difficult, while elder tourists are accompanied by guides who can carry their luggage up the rocky paths.

The Fann range boastings Alp-like looks of high and low pinnacles, with the Iskanderkul and Alauddin lakes the most popular destinations.

Stretching 300 km in all the regions of the Pamir-Alay mountain system, bordered by the Fan Darya River to the east and the Archimaydan River to the west, these snowcapped crests cradle nearly 30 deep blue-blooded lakes, each boasting its own vibrant shadow from teal to turquoise.

In the summer, “youre seeing” numerous locals from the countryside taking their animals up the really high mountains, Nematov says. Theyll often invite you for a goblet of fresh milk or tea.

Nematov
Nematov and his son head up into the Fann mountain range. Photo: Parvin Saadati/ Brownbook

Nematov:
Nematov: Every gorge and creek bank has its own glamour. Picture: Parvin Saadati/ Brownbook

Despite his claim that every gorge and creek bank has its own beautiful, after two decades of trekking and a lifetime spent in the Fann mountains, he Nematov has grown somewhat used to the views.

Its not very mesmerising, he says. For me its ever the same view.

In recent years, he has been assigning the treks to younger guidebooks. Instead, he devotes his time to culture sightseeing tours in Panjakent, the former regional capital of the ancient Sogdia civilisation, bordered by Uzbekistan and the Zeravshan river.

Nematov rarely leaves the house without his notebook its pages now filled with this seasons historical findings. The upcoming summertime will take him on a tour of the whole country, with a call is my intention to the world heritage site
Sarazm
, permitting him time to explore the old-time city with its Zoroastrian ruins.

Though Tajikistans tourist industry is still relatively new, Nematov is enthusiastic about its potential. Cultivating for travellers of all budgetary, Nematov ensures no tourists are limited by their business. Im never thinking about how I can build more fund off of the tourists, he says. I want to develop my business for the future, and develop our tourism.

This article appears in Brownbooks March/ April 2016 question

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