Existing Member?

Alice down the rabbit hole

Understanding a Culture through Food

TAJIKISTAN | Friday, 19 April 2013 | Views [255] | Scholarship Entry

The rain had relieved the dusty streets and the evening hummed with silence. I stepped where my host went before me, trusting her instincts were honed to the powerless Tajik nights. ‘A little further’. An enviable confidence. Lost in a sightless world of vague shapes and potholes, I followed closely.
A whisper of a tune reached us on the air and grew louder with each step. We followed to a large wooden door, carved with three frozen tigers intertwined. Our knock was answered by a small woman who appeared magically from a smaller door concealed amongst the carving, flooding the street with light.
A flurry of Tajik was met by a bemused stare but I was whisked in regardless to join the proceedings. ‘She says you are late!’ my host yelled after me. I had no time to ask how she knew I was coming.
In the centre of the courtyard men and women danced around a cauldron of caramel Sumalak. My tiger-lady steered me though the crowds and I gathered that I should stir for luck and happiness in the New Year. ‘It take a long time to prepare and only stay short time’. The woman who addressed me grinned warily, not sure what to make of a stray foreigner. Her gold front teeth flashed in the flames when she spoke and her forehead was covered in beads of sweat from hours of guarding the Sumalak. ‘We must make for 16 hours and what else to do but dance!’
Heads turned, though eyes flicked away when met with my own. Like Chinese whispers, my age, marital status and nationality, though not my name, were circulated around the crowd.
Moving self-consciously towards a table, I sat hiding my face in the gloom. Fellow diners quickly gathered my lack of Russian and resumed their conversation until it was interrupted by a plate piled high with Osh - rice, vegetables and meat. Ten, perhaps twenty spoonfuls later, I had outpaced most Tajiks and my appetite was attracting attention. I looked up and met the stares with one piece of Russian I knew, ‘Mnye nravitsa Osh!’ The surprise sent giggles around the table and I knew I was no longer a stranger.
Soon I was coerced on to the dance floor with my new friends and taught dances to the amusement of the crowd. But then came my turn. ‘They want you to teach them a dance from your country’ my host translated.
We left through the Tiger-carved door in the early hours with more Sumalak than we could eat tucked in containers under our arms. The sound of the Macarena faded behind me and the hum of the night began again.

Tags: Travel Writing Scholarship 2013

Add your comments

(If you have a travel question, get your Answers here)

In order to avoid spam on these blogs, please enter the code you see in the image. Comments identified as spam will be deleted.

About alicegwynne

Follow Me

Where I've been

My trip journals

See all my tags 



Travel Answers about Tajikistan

Do you have a travel question? Ask other World Nomads.