The Tajik Community on Uzbekistan’s Highlands
Surrounded by the Pamir mountain range, a remote village keeps customs alive.
The village of Gelon is as charming as it is inaccessible. Largely populated by ethnic Tajiks, the kishlak (village), sits at 2,336 metres above sea level in Uzbekistan’s south, surrounded by the majestic mountains of the Hissar range.
The 4,083-metre Khazret Sultan Peak, Uzbekistan’s highest, towers over the area. Tajikistan is on the other side of the imposing Pamir mountain system and until 2018 the area was off-limits to foreign tourists due to its special border status.
It can take up to three hours to cover the 70 kilometres from Uzbekistan’s southern city of Shakhrisabz to reach the high-altitude village.
The village dates back to the fourteenth century when Tajiks settled among the Pamir mountains to flee persecution from Genghis Khan’s Mongol troops. Due to its remoteness, residents have maintained traditional Tajik customs, including in the structure of the houses and cuisine. Dishes that cannot be found across Uzbekistan include ugro osh, chopped and fried noodles cooked with meat and tubers like potatoes and turnips.
In summer, Gelon enjoys a freshness unknown to the plains where sultry heat reigns well into September. By November, however, winter has arrived on the highlands and will remain until early May.
All photos by Abdulak Turgonov.
This publication was prepared under the "Amplify, Verify, Engage (AVE) Project" implemented with the financial support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Norway.