This remote, mostly mountainous country in the heart of Central Asia was once an important link in the ancient Silk Road. Like the Himalayas of northern India and Nepal, it has towering mountains, where a mythical abominable snowman is said to dwell; like Tibet, it calls itself the Roof of the World. What it does not share with these other destinations, however, is a place in travelers' imaginations. And with good reason. In the past, Tajikistan's dangers have overshadowed the windswept beauty of its high mountain reaches and the exotic legacy of the most romantic of trade routes. Still, although the region's stability is still in flux, the country is slowly opening up to tourists, and the more adventurous set is now making its way to experience this undiscovered gem.

Remoteness has not protected it from conflict—internal and external. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, a struggle developed between Communist rulers and an opposition made up of (at various times) nationalists, democrats and Islamic fundamentalists. Now, it must deal with the fallout of violence in its southern neighbor, Afghanistan.

Most of the country seems to have stabilized over the past several years, and the once violent capital of Dushanbe is now as green, peaceful and law-abiding as any other midsized city in Asia. Nevertheless, although peace may have arrived in Tajikistan, outbreaks of terrorist violence have occurred in the neighboring countries of Uzbekistan and Afghanistan. A visit to Tajikistan, although certainly possible and worthwhile, should be considered in the larger context of the Middle East and Central Asia. Additionally, there is little true tourist infrastructure as yet, so unseasoned travelers should probably cut their adventure-travel teeth elsewhere.

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