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Tourism Revives Remote Tajik Mountain Village

The extreme conditions of high-altitude desert and strong winds, combined with lack of opportunities beyond yak and sheep breeding, make life in the High Pamir Mountains of eastern Tajikistan a fight for survival. Yet in recent years, the village of Alichor has seen a turnaround in its fortunes, with a nascent tourism industry slowing the outflow of people to neighboring Kyrgyzstan. Photojournalist Janyl Jusupjan paid the village a visit.


Alichor village sits at the foot of a mountain. But it is actually 4,000 meters above sea level, which made it the highest village in the former Soviet Union.
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Alichor village sits at the foot of a mountain. But it is actually 4,000 meters above sea level, which made it the highest village in the former Soviet Union.

A Soviet-style billboard welcomes travellers to Alichor with a depiction of two men, one with a Kyrgyz white hat and one with the red hat of the Pamiri ethnic group.
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A Soviet-style billboard welcomes travellers to Alichor with a depiction of two men, one with a Kyrgyz white hat and one with the red hat of the Pamiri ethnic group.

View of Аlichor village. The area is so high that 7,000-meter snow-capped peaks are seen as lowlying hills.
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View of Аlichor village. The area is so high that 7,000-meter snow-capped peaks are seen as lowlying hills.

A family in front of their house. The village is 80 percent Kyrgyz and 20 percent Pamiri.
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A family in front of their house. The village is 80 percent Kyrgyz and 20 percent Pamiri.

Most houses in the village have no fences or yards, with the door leading straight onto the street.
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Most houses in the village have no fences or yards, with the door leading straight onto the street.

Girls pose by a wall.
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Girls pose by a wall.

Local teacher Zamir Nazarmambetov in the school library. We can see the portrait of Tajik President Emomali Rahmon on the wall. The books are mostly in Russian and Kyrgyz. Zamir says that there have been no new deliveries from Kyrgyzstan since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.
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Local teacher Zamir Nazarmambetov in the school library. We can see the portrait of Tajik President Emomali Rahmon on the wall. The books are mostly in Russian and Kyrgyz. Zamir says that there have been no new deliveries from Kyrgyzstan since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Zamir's mother, Meyman, in her house. She is one of the first generation of nomads who were settled here by the Soviet government.
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Zamir's mother, Meyman, in her house. She is one of the first generation of nomads who were settled here by the Soviet government.

The family meal is dominated by yak products -- yogurt, sour cream, and butter. All other products, exept meat, are brought in from the lowlands.
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The family meal is dominated by yak products -- yogurt, sour cream, and butter. All other products, exept meat, are brought in from the lowlands.

Zamir's wife, Gulzat, makes a fire to cook on. An electricity line was run to the village in Soviet times, but it was never connected to the grid. So electricity is affordable only to those who own generators.
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Zamir's wife, Gulzat, makes a fire to cook on. An electricity line was run to the village in Soviet times, but it was never connected to the grid. So electricity is affordable only to those who own generators.

A truck delivers Tersken, a local bush widely used for making fires.
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A truck delivers Tersken, a local bush widely used for making fires.

Tagajbek Patandaev, a local businessman, in front of his family-run hostel. For breakfast, the hostel offers fried sausages imported from Iran and eggs brought from the Tajik capital, Dushanbe. There is even a small sauna.
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Tagajbek Patandaev, a local businessman, in front of his family-run hostel. For breakfast, the hostel offers fried sausages imported from Iran and eggs brought from the Tajik capital, Dushanbe. There is even a small sauna.

A group of Belgian bikers at the hostel.
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A group of Belgian bikers at the hostel.

Several women in the village clubbed together and opened a yurt as a guest house. The yurt is beautifully decorated with traditional Kyrgyz carpets and other handwork made by local women.
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Several women in the village clubbed together and opened a yurt as a guest house. The yurt is beautifully decorated with traditional Kyrgyz carpets and other handwork made by local women.

Single mother Aichurok Kochorbaeva keeps her family going by making yak wool carpets for tourists.
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Single mother Aichurok Kochorbaeva keeps her family going by making yak wool carpets for tourists.

The street name is written in Kyrgyz and Tajik. Usually, only the Tajik language is used on public signage. Beyond the mountains in the background lies Afghanistan.
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The street name is written in Kyrgyz and Tajik. Usually, only the Tajik language is used on public signage. Beyond the mountains in the background lies Afghanistan.

A Chinese truck on the road near Alichor. They pass this way en route to Dushanbe, which brings an added benefit as drivers sometimes stop by for lunch in a local canteen.
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A Chinese truck on the road near Alichor. They pass this way en route to Dushanbe, which brings an added benefit as drivers sometimes stop by for lunch in a local canteen.

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