Tajikistan, Dushanbe, The People, Regency Hyatt

    Tajikistan is a splendid country! I love it, and I love the people who I met there. They are friendly, they meet you with open minds and keep you close to their hearts.
    They greet each other not only with a handshake, but also by putting their right hand to their heart – a symbol easy to understand.
    I really liked them, and I was impressed with the meetings of many of the IT-leaders of the country.
    I met with the CTO of one of their mobile companies, Babilon-M (recommended – my blackberry worked without any problems using their services!), Bakhtiyor Maminov. His inspired vision about the present and future of his country’s telecommunication services is inspiring. Some of the things he talked about could make him a leader in the region. Their plans for cooperation with neighboring China are also amazing.
    The country code top-level domain administrators are also great – Timur Hasanov and Khalil Rachmanov know what they are doing, and they are taking it seriously. The picture will not be complete, if I don’t mention the friends from the Global Internet Policy Initiative, who are struggling to make their country leader in the field of the Internet. It is really inspiring to see young people devoted to change a whole country towards better.

Some practical advices from me about the country in general:

If you ever travel to Dushanbe, I can highly recommend the brand new (just opened) hotel Regency Hyatt. (the picture below shows the entrance of the hotel with a view towards the restaurant)

It is located about 2 minutes by car from the Office of the President, so in the downtown area.
The staff is among the most friendly I’ve met while traveling on all continents. I’d compare it to the Kuala Lumpur’s Shangri-La hotel. But the Tajikistan hospitality is different than any other country. As the Russians say, “Vostok – delo tonkoe” (East is a special case), one needs to know that people are so friendly that they would want to shake hands and congratulate you every time they see you. Even if these are traffic police officers on the streets of Dushanbe.
The restaurant, Focaccia Grill, is staffed with foreigners (chefs, waiters), who were training their Tajik colleagues. Food was very good, and they were also creative – e.g. when I ordered the Nicoise salad without the green beans, they put some extra olives and peppers, which was quite nice.
The rooms are extremely good. Designed by someone with lots of vision, they provide the necessary conditions to make your stay a remarkable one. A flat-screen LCD TV, computer connection (LAN; they will give you a cable, if you don’t have one. If you have, though, don’t try to connect it on the desk – this switch there doesn’t work; the real connection is under the desk).
Amazingly well built bathroom – with a ceiling shower, a hand shower, and a separate bath.
There’s the usual mini-bar, of course, plus three telephone sets – one on the desk, one by the bed, and one in the toilet.
A/C works really well, and the noise it makes helps your sleep.
The view from the hotel is fantastic – one can see the little lake in front of it, or the city and the mountains in the vicinity.
There’s a good fitness center, and soon their spa and swimming pool will be operational.

Typical tip at the hotel will be 10 of the local money (approx. $ 2.5). A limousine from the hotel to the airport is $ 25. They don’t accept USD or Euro, so bring an ATM card, or pay with credit card. The hotel does not accept American Express, but works fine with Visa and Master Card.

Funny episode – on the way out you have to go first through check-in, then through passport control, then through manual search of the luggage (not random, as in other countries; everyone goes). I was asked if I carry local currency, or USD, or drugs. The customs officer explained that many people try to smuggle drugs from near Afghanistan. Don’t know if he was joking or not. Then he asked me why do I need to take the local 50 with me, and not leave it with him. Again – didn’t know if it was a joke, or he was serious, or he wanted to provoke. I mean – I am sure he was seriously asking me to leave the money with him. But if you are a foreigner, not speaking Tajik or Russian, don’t try anything, and better – don’t keep the local currency with you all the way to the airport. There’s only a small kiosk inside, where they sell drinks and some snacks.

Another funny episode: the Coke sold in Tajikistan is imported from… Afghanistan! Yes, it is made in Kabul! Now, I wonder if the customs officer meant that there is a lot of Coke imported from Afghanistan, or a lot of coca smuggled from there 😉

Many pictures from Tajikistan – here.

I love this country!

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