Sunday, November 29, 2009

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Hissor Fortress

A couple weeks ago I was invited to Hissor, a town about 20 minutes from Dushanbe, to see the famous Hissor Fortress (in Tajik, Kalai Hissor). A teacher I know lives in Hissor, and she took me to the fortress, museum, her school, and the homes of several of her family members.

According to my trusty copy of "Tajikistan and the High Pamirs," (p 121 for those who have it), the site has been inhabited for thousands of years (since the Stone Age). The actual walls of the fortress were destroyed 21 times by armies from Alexander the Great to the Red Army, and the current gate is a reconstruction. Across the road from the Fortress are two former medressas, or Islamic religious schools, one of which is a museum. The medressa was a large square courtyard with small rooms around it where the students would stay for a couple years during their studies. By the end, if they were successful, they were able to recite the entire Koran. The wooden piece of machinery in the picture is an old water powered wheat grinder--cool, huh? The other wooden log thing is an oil press--for flaxseed oil as I recall from the tour guide's explanation.

One room in the museum had some posters to commemorate May 9, "Victory Day" for World War II. The pictures were of veterans (I assume from the Hissor region) who were honored during the 60th anniversary celebrations in 2005. Imagine being an 18 year old from the poorest region of the USSR who had never left your valley before, traveling thousands of miles to fight, maybe to return, maybe not. Similar stories of that war are told in different languages and with different names from nations all around the world. "My grandfather, great-grandfather, father, uncle..."

After visiting the fortress and museum, Shahlo (another Shahlo, not my counterpart at the university) took me for a lovely lunch outside where we sat and ate on a "cot" overlooking a river. That was the beginning of an afternoon of eating, since we then went to another place for dessert and then to two relatives houses for tea and snacks! I'm wearing the Tajik dress that my students gave me for teacher day. The dress is called a "corta" and the pants underneath are called "azor".

Thanks for reading--as usual the Department of State and the English Language Fellowship program have nothing to do with the ideas and ramblings presented here :)