>>An increased number of homestays has given tourism a boost
JAWSHANGOZ/Tajikistan – In this hamlet in the mountains of eastern Tajikistan, Firishtamo Shohnavruzov made a note in his battered jotter.
Like many poor farmers, Shohnavruzov has opened his home to international visitors.
“Two guests paid $5 each for plov (a rice and mutton dish) and chai (tea) and $14 for lodging,” he said.
The Pamirs are remote and rugged but with an increasing number of tour operators and basic B&Bs, they are attracting a growing number of intrepid travellers.
In the first half of 2011, for example, the Pamir Eco Cultural Tourism Association (PECTA) noted a near 40% increase in the number of tourists to their office in Khorog, the main town in the south of the country.
Shohnavruzov Homestay is typical of the locally-based tourism PECTA, set up in 2008, wants to encourage. The main attraction is the so-called Pamir Highway, an arduous 500km Soviet-built road over soaring mountain passes that connects Khorog to Osh in Southern Kyrgyzstan.
There are still many, basic, infrastructure challenges, though.
Gulnara Akhmatbekovna, a tour guide in Murgab near the Kyrgyz border, leafed through various guides printed out in different languages.
“What I’d really like is an internet connection that doesn’t run on a generator,” she said.
This story was first published in issue 133 of The Conway Bulletin, an independent weekly newssheet covering Central Asia and the South Caucasus. To subscribe, click here