What, no forms?
3:45 am. Arrival in Dushanbe! Four hours by plane east of Istanbul, our plane descends and the lights of the city come into sight. There are more lights than I expect, lining long avenues. We land with another plane arriving just after us, which seemed strange at that hour.. After a long wait to taxi in, we finally stop and the doors open. Dushanbe is ringed by mountains, in a country that is mostly mountains. As I walk off the plane, I fully expect to receive a blast of cold mountain air to welcome me to Dushanbe. Instead, it feels almost tropical. Warm, moist air with the slight smell of coal is what greets me.
Quick bus ride and we reach the very small terminal building (basically one big room that has been broken into three sections). I fill the forms for my visa in a side room with fancy leather chairs lining the walls and long polished coffee tables. Receiving my stamped visa, I say “spaciba” (thank you in Russian) and am told “No, in our language you say Tashakkur.” My first word of Tajik. I learn later that this is actually Farsi, the language spoken in Iran and the mother language of Tajik and Dari (spoken in northern Afghanistan).
With visa in hand, I returned to the big room to get through Immigration, but the lines are not moving. Everyone I left there is still in the same place…not a good sign. Apparently there are no more forms, and without the form nothing can happen. The man who should be getting more forms is occupied with the processing of a few VIPs, so we all wait – foreigners, Tajiks, everyone. The Tajiks start to get agitated after some time, yelling across the barrier to the Immigration officials. I don’t know if their protests had any effect, but eventually the line starts to move and we all get our passports stamped. It’s been almost two hours, but fortunately our luggage is still there, and my driver is still waiting! 30 hours after leaving the US, I’m ready to stop traveling, but first I have to deal with the luggage mafia. Two locals helpfully bring a cart and load my bags, pushing them out to the vehicle. The driver doesn’t say anything, and I’m ok with an easier walk to the car. I take a look for some dollar bills, and one helpfully speaks up: “$20 will be fine.” Right. I give them a few dollars and they are still arguing for more as we pull out into the streets of Dushanbe… We travel through mostly empty streets, though several groups of police are checking vehicles. Many of the streets have flags or light displays alongside, giving the place a festive air. I reach my guesthouse at 6:30 am, and a sleepy attendant lets me in. After months of waiting, finally I am here.