When Charles Hornung lost his finance job in London three years ago, he’d never heard of Tajikistan. Now, the CEO of Silverhill Resources is one of a handful of Western mining magnates who call this impoverished Central Asian country home.
“The prospects here are great,” Hornung said at a Dushanbe café this month. “But so are the hurdles.”
In Tajikistan’s bustling bazaars, traders often must rely on faith alone to get them through hard times.
“In Allah we trust,” said Zafar, standing in the smoldering remains of the Korvon Bazaar, Dushanbe’s biggest wholesale market. The fabric seller had just lost $25,000 in a blaze that engulfed more than 5,000 square meters of the market late on September 5.
Four years ago, Farida Hajimova’s husband left Tajikistan to work in Russia. After a time, he stopped calling. Ultimately, he never returned. She was left at home in Dushanbe with two daughters and not a lot of options. Now she says she has no choice but to follow in her ex-husband's footsteps -- not to find him, but to find work herself.
A building boom in Tajikistan’s capital Dushanbe -- one that has given rise to Central Asia’s largest library, tallest flagpole and the soon-to-be most spacious teahouse – is prompting some residents to joke that the city is becoming a showcase for a new-ish architectural style, “dictator chic.”
When she was 16, Kibriyo Khaitova’s parents told her that if she didn’t marry, she’d soon be a spinster. So, like many girls from Tajikistan, Khaitova married a man her family found for her. Now 20, she has two children, no husband and is fending for herself.
Officials are giving Tajikistan a flashy makeover to mark the country’s 20th anniversary of independence. But with vast numbers living in poverty, and with the government unable to provide basic social services, critics say the spending spree is an extravagance that the former Soviet Union’s poorest country can't afford.
The Tajik authorities have announced that the price of the hajj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia this year has risen to $3,348, payable in dollars only, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.
Mavlon Mukhtorov, a deputy chairman of Tajikistan's State Committee for Religious Affairs, told RFE/RL that this year the price of the hajj to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina had increased by $267 per person.