Tajikistan Shopping and nightlife
Shopping in Tajikistan
Tajikistan relies heavily on imported goods, most of which are of Turkish, Russian or Chinese origin and those goods usually reflect only the low quality end of the range, including various obvious attempts at fake branding of western goods. In the cities, 'supermarket' retailing is emerging but the majority of locals still buy from traditional bazaars which exist in most villages and are worth experiencing even if you have no plans to buy anything at all.
In Dushanbe, there are several bazaars worth visiting, most notably the Zelenny (green) Bazaar where the vegetable and fruit market is particularly colourful. Barakat Bazaar is the better option for clothing but Tsum is good for a range of consumables and souvenirs.
Around Khujand, from June to September, it is worth inquiring about dried apricot bazaars, which are held fortnightly in remote locations in the countryside. They begin very early in the day to avoid too much sunshine on the products. Selling starts at sunrise and it is usually all over by 9am.
In a small district called Chkalovsk, near Khujand, there is a market held on Saturdays in the local park where the remaining local ethnic Russian community sells items of soviet memorabilia. In the soviet era this was a 'closed city' as there was a uranium enrichment plant here. The city appeared on no maps and was populated only by ethnic Russians, many of whom have now departed and their memorabilia are all that remain of that bygone era.
Probably the most unusual bazaar experience can be found in Murghab where old transport containers have been cut up to make a variety of small booths and shops. The significant absence of many commodities adds to the flavour of this retail graveyard.
The most popular souvenirs involve traditional needlework and patchwork designs on felt, cotton and wool handicrafts. Some development efforts have been made to try and stimulate local production of handicrafts for tourist purchase. However, poor quality designs, materials and workmanship all compound to reduce this trade to not much more than a 'pity purchase'.
In the Eastern Pamir you can find traditional Kyrgyz headwear – the kalpak.
Nightlife in Tajikistan
Nightlife in Tajikistan is decidedly quiet in comparison to most other countries and generally there is insufficient disposable income to warrant merriment of this kind. With the exception of Khujand and Dushanbe, essentially you have to make it happen for yourself – particularly in rural districts.
This may not be too bad if you can find a local group or band to perform but don't expect this every night and with electricity in short supply, take plenty of batteries for your torch and reading.
In Dushanbe, there are plenty of bars and clubs that you can visit but heavy drinking can be expected in most and some of the clientele work in a professional capacity – be wary of your bags and overly friendly advances.
The Aini Opera and Ballet Theatre is an impressive building towards the southern end of Rudaki and you should book in advance. There is also a water and light show in the fountains up on Karamov.
In Khujand, the story is very similar to Dushanbe, but with fewer options. However, their water and light show (near the Somoni statue on the north side of the river) is more entertaining and usually attended by hundreds of locals and their families – worth experiencing just to see the crowds of happy faces having fun together in the evening.