Food & Drink :
Traditional Tajik meals start with sweet dishes such as halwa and tea
and then progress to soups and meat before finishing with plov. Plov
is made up of scraps of mutton, shredded yellow turnip and rice, fried
in a large wok, and is a staple dish in all the Central Asian
republics. The appetising shashlyk (skewered chunks of mutton grilled
over charcoal, served with raw sliced onions) and lipioshka (round
unleavened bread) are often sold on street corners and served in
restaurants: the Vastoychny bar restaurant in Dushanbe (on Prospekt
Rudaki near the Hotel Tajikistan) serves particularly good shashlyk.
Manty (large noodle sacks of meat), samsa (samosas) and chiburekki
(deep-fried dough cakes) are all popular as snacks. Shorpur is a meat
and vegetable soup; laghman is similar to shorpur, but comes with
noodles. In the summer, Tajikistan is awash with fruit: its grapes and
melons were famous throughout the former Soviet Union. The bazaars
also sell pomegranates, apricots, plums, figs and persimmons. Little
of the food served in hotels indicates its Tajik heritage : borcht is
beetroot soup, entrecote are well-done steaks, cutlet are grilled
meatballs, and strogan is the local equivalent of beef Stroganoff.
Pirmeni, originating in Ukraine, are small boiled noodle sacks of meat
and vegetables similar to ravioli, sometimes in a vegetable soup,
Tea or chai is the most widespread drink on offer and can be obtained
almost anywhere. Beer, wine, vodka, brandy and sparkling wine (shampanski)
are intermittently available in many restaurants. If the restaurant is
unable to supply it, it is acceptable to bring your own. Kefir, a
thick drinking yoghurt, is often served with breakfast.
Nightlife : There are no restaurants operating in the evenings
except for the one in the Hotel Oktyabrskaya which shuts at 2200.
There is a dollar bar in the basement of the Hotel Tajikistan which is
open some evenings. The Ayni opera and ballet theatre on Prospekt
Rudaki is still operating, albeit with a reduced programme of
matinees. The streets of Dushanbe are deserted after 2000.
Shopping : Shortages are the norm in Tajikistan; there is a
bazaar and street market behind the Hotel Tajikistan where it is
possible to buy food and sometimes handicrafts. Shokhmansur (also
known as Zilyoni) Bazaar near Ploshchad Ayni also sells food. There is
a souvenir shop on the corner of Prospekt Rudaki and ulitsa Ismail
Somoni, under an art gallery which exhibits and sells the work of
local artists. Shopping hours : Food shops open Mon-Sat 0900-1700.
Special Events : There is a carnival of Navruz (the beginning
of the Persian New Year), when a special dish called sumalak is
prepared from germinating wheat. Other events celebrated are tied to
the Muslim calendar.
Social Conventions : Lipioshka (bread) should never be laid
upside down, and it is normal to remove shoes, but not socks, when
entering someone’s house. Shorts are rarely seen in Tajikistan and,
worn by females, are likely to provoke unwelcome attention from the
local male population.