Winter in the Worst City in Asia


Jurab – Pamiri socks

Recently, my present city of Dushanbe was ranked the worst city in Asia for expatriates, who are people who move to a country from abroad (usually for their jobs). Some of the factors inevitably were the continental climate (not much different from Nebraska), the lack of schedules (not even route maps) for the public transport, the shortage of items that do not fall apart after three uses, and the prevalence of Will Smith vehicles at the cinema. While Dushanbe and the other regional capitals may not be as convenient to live in as Singapore or Tokyo, I (mostly) enjoy my time here. It’s been six months since Navid (now 15 months) and I arrived. I am incredibly happy to greet spring.


This is what happens when you put water in a cup.

I spent most of the coldest times huddled next to the space heater (pechka), cup of tea in hand. Some mornings everything in the kitchen froze. I once tried to pour hot water into a cold cup and it cracked in half. We dressed Navid in several layers, but oddly enough he never seemed cold.

One day, while walking by the lake, I witnessed a rescue. A woman had tried to walk across it and fell in, and the person who tried to rescue her got stuck in the ice. A third person trudged through the chest-deep water and pulled them both back. Apparently, everyone was fine and the woman even saved her cell phone from getting wet.


A rescue at the lake

On several nights the electricity went out, sometimes for hours. One evening I timed it perfectly, announcing that the soup was ready just as the lights went out. Another night we hadn’t even started to make dinner; hence, we mixed up cold curried chicken salad and ate it by flashlight.

We eat lots of borscht and soups with lentils and chickpeas. The supermarkets now offer things like frozen spinach and coconut milk ($3/can), which we occasionally use to make Indian-inspired dishes. The most plentiful fruits in February were juicy, tangy oranges. Street food options remain limited, mainly fried dough (piroshky) and nuts and sunflower seeds. The hot round loaves of bread from street sellers are especially delicious in winter.


Samarkand-chi naan and “Navruz” peanut butter

3 thoughts on “Winter in the Worst City in Asia

  1. Pingback: Winter in Tajik Capital, the “Worst City in Asia” · Global Voices

  2. Pingback: Majira ya Baridi Tajik, “Jiji Baya Zaidi Barani Asia” · Global Voices in Swahili

  3. Pingback: Τατζικιστάν: Χειμώνας στην Ντουσάνμπε · Global Voices στα Ελληνικά

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