One Tajik man has turned matchmaking into a booming business opportunity.
Murod Kurbonov's new dating agency is becoming increasingly popular among residents of the Tajik town of Khujand.
The Yusuf and Zulaikho Agency – named after characters in an old poem – is the first of its kind in the country, where the majority of marriages are arranged by parents.
However, with thousands of Tajik men leaving to work in Russia, many Tajik women complain that there are simply not enough men left to marry.
Kurbonov says the agency's services are in high demand and that the number of customers has exceeded his most optimistic expectations.
"Many single and divorced women and men are contacting us," Murodov says. "And we have many male customers who are inmates in a local prison."
It seems that even conservative parents and arranged marriage enthusiasts are adapting themselves to new realities.
Some elderly residents of Khujand have suggested that parents should use the agency to arrange their children's marriages. Sixty-five-year-old Sharifa-Khola says parents can obtain "plenty of information" about potential sons- or daughters-in-law through the agency.
Local religious figures have advised the agency to function within Islamic norms and Tajik traditions.
In the meantime, Murodov is set to open new branches of his agency in the capital, Dushanbe, and other Tajik cities.
-- Farangis Najibullah