My favorite spot in all of Dushanbe is not a park, not a statue or a museum.
It’s a market. Or bazaar, as many others may call it.
Lonely Planet spoke of a Green Bazaar. The map tells me that it was near my hotel. On the way there I got lost in the maze. Reading maps was never my strong suit, fyi.
So I did what I always do. I shall find the Shahmansur Market, following the mob carrying shopping bags! That always does the trick.
Soon enough, I found myself here.
In any other part of the city, Dushanbe seems tranquil, laid back, or frozen in time.
But in the middle of this market, it is BUSTLING.
It is such a thrill to see all these fresh produce.
Fruits are everywhere, in all shapes and sizes. Berries, melons, pears, peaches –fruits, that while I was growing up in my native Philippines, I only saw preserved in cans.
Snapping shots of the vendors with their merchandise fascinated me. I made sure to buy from them first, so they would gladly let me take a photo. And perhaps I could forge a smile out of them.
From this woman, I bought pears and figs. I call her Madame Juicy Fruits.
I was one of the early shoppers at the market at 6 a.m. And his was among the first stalls that was open for business. He was ready to sell me a kilo’s worth of tea leaves! But I signed to him, no, that will be too much.
We were signing, since I did not speak Tajik nor Russian. He did not understand English either. So he was scooping from his mounds of tea and making me smell them. I got 1/4 kilo to take back to the Philippines for 8TJS or less than a dollar!
Yay, thank you Mister Tea!
I had my mom in mind when I passed by this guy. And all those vibrant colors caught my attention. And really, nothing looked better than a stall of spices! I never get to see this back home.
We did the same drill. He scooped. I smelled. But some of the spices were recognizable to me from their mere color. In the middle of our olfactory exercise, he realized I meant business. He may have seen the words buena mano written all over my face. I also did tell him that I was bringing them home to the Philippines for my mama. Soon, he started scooping extra into my shopping bag.
I bought coriander, saffron powder, paprika and a mixed spice rub. It was such fun. I was sniffing the bag, like glue!
Thank you Mr. Spice Guy!
I was wondering along the aisles where I could find sweets to take back to the hotel. I entered a covered area. Lo and behold, here they were! And for real, there were bees flying all over this section! How I managed to pick which ones to buy is beyond my recollection. But Honey Lady clearly woke up at the wrong side of the bed.
I left the hotel before breakfast, because I had one think in mind — to pick up, freshly baked crusty bread. And I did, from this photogenic woman along the bread aisle. Dough Princess gamely posed for the photo, yet she refused to smile. They aren’t big on smiling here, I realized.
I’d smile if I had all this bread!
I wonder if they go on half off by the end of the day?!
As if there would be any left.
P.S. This article also appears on Mytrendingstories.com.
Shahmansur Bazaar Lohuti Street, Dushanbe, Tajikistan