Tajikistan part 1: Nowruz/Navruz festivities


When your mother tells you that she is invited to attend a conference in Tajikistan during Nowruz you don’t care about your savings and spend them on a ticket so you can join her. At least that’s how my brain works and what I did last week. I haven’t regretted it at all! I will try to share some of the pictures and stories from there in different parts. Let’s hope that my laziness won’t get the best of me this time. There have been quite some trips which I wanted to blog about and never did but Tajikistan must not be part of that group.
The first post regarding Tajikistan will be about the Nowruz celebrations we attended. Depending on which area one is from Nowruz marks either the beginning of a new year or the beginning of Spring. In Tajikistan it is all about the beginning of Spring, while Afghanistan also marks the beginning of a new year on that day. For a complete list of countries where Nowruz is a public holiday please have a look at the wiki page.


As an Afghan living in the Netherlands it wasn’t that obvious that we would celebrate Nowruz but my mother valued this day so much that she would always make sure we did something to celebrate it. Sometimes it would be through gatherings at home with close friends and sometimes she would organize events so that other Afghans who value this celebration could join. Throughout the years I always wondered how it would be to have the opportunity to celebrate Nowruz in a country where it is a national holiday. In some countries where Nowruz has been celebrated for centuries it is still a tricky subject, specially religious groups might have their reservations when it comes to celebrating the beginning of Spring. However in Tajikistan it feels like people are even getting more and more encouraged to celebrate Nowroz by the government. I guess as part of nation building efforts, but I am no expert so I will stop the analysis right here.

Flags and more flags during Nowruz celebrations Tajikistan

I didn’t realize how big Nowruz was in Tajikistan until I got exposed to it. I basically went from celebrating it in my livingroom to a complete Nowruz extravaganza in Tajikistan. Celebrations were taking place all over the country, there were signs on the streets wishing everybody a happy Nowruz and everyone got approximately a week off for the holiday. Most of the government led celebrations took place in a big stadium or an open area in the town, there usually was a market with a lot of Tajik food on display, there were performances with dancing, singing and poetry. A lot of the culture of Tajikistan was being shown during the celebrations.

Typical Nowruz related aspects such as haft sin/haft shin, samanak (a pudding type of dish made from germinated wheat)  and coloured eggs (yes, we do that too) were present. In Afghanistan we also have something called haft mewa (7 fruits) made from 7 different dried fruits served in syrup, but I didn’t see that in Tajikistan. Another difference was that there was no Kampirak/Amu Nowruz (Santa Claus). Instead of that there were young ladies dressed in white who symbolized Spring and in some cities there was a ‘Miss Nowruz/Malika-e-Navruz‘ dressed in green. At first I was wondering why so many brides were walking around and then I saw them being part of the celebration and understood they symbolize Spring. When the ladies in white arrive the people say or sing: ‘Bahar amad‘ (Spring has arrived).

I made a video compilation of some of the dances I saw during the celebrations. The first two dances in the video are spontaneous acts by people not part of an official celebration. The first one was in the Botanical Garden of Dushanbe with young people celebrating their first day off from school for the Nowruz holidays, there were boys walking around with percussion instruments and young people following them or calling them to come and play so they could dance. It was fun to watch how energetic everyone was. In the second one there are two women who after the official ceremonies decided to have a little dance-off at the National Library of Dushanbe. Don’t worry about the strange sound you hear on the bit with the women dancing, I was standing close to some fountains and apparently the sound was captured. The other bits in the video are from the different gatherings we attended, I have to research the name of the dances but if anyone has an idea feel free to let me know!

The first Nowruz celebration I went to was in Dushanbe and it was huge, the president was also present so no cameras were allowed unfortunately! For the other celebrations we went to the Sughd province of Tajikistan where we attended three gatherings. One in the town of Ayni, and two others in Panjakent. If you want to learn more about Nowruz celebrations then you can most definitely visit Tajikistan to get a glimpse of the festivities. Here are some pictures:

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