Trekking in Tajikistan: the Fann Mountains vs Jizeu
Posted: Mon May 16, 2016 6:30 pm
We are wondering if we should include a trekking in Jizeu (Geizev,Jisev) in our trip to Tajikistan. If we are already planning on trekking in the Fann Mountains, is it still worth it to include Jizeu? If you would have time for only one of the 2 (Jizeu vs Fann Mountains), which one would you chose and why?
Thank you for your help!
Re: Trekking in Tajikistan: the Fann Mountains vs Jizeu
Posted: Tue May 17, 2016 9:39 pm
I haven't been to Jisev or the Bartang Valley, and my experience in the Fanns was limited to the seven lakes/haftkul area of the Shing Valley, but here is my impression: the biggest and most important difference will be in the people, both in terms of how many they are and their culture.
The GBAO region is very isolated and sparsely populated, and also receives a lot fewer tourists than the Fann Mountains. This makes for perhaps a more interesting cultural experience in the Pamirs, though the conservatism of the Fanns is also interesting (more on that below). On the other hand, there is more information out there on trekking in the Fanns, especially since it seems to have been a relatively popular destination in Soviet times. Because there are more people in the Fanns it is also easier to trek from village to village, and from valley to valley over mountain passes, while this may be a little more difficult in the GBAO. Note that the unsustainably high population density in the Fanns means that many people there are very poor (and it's probably even worse now that Russia has made it more difficult for them to work there—when I was there you wouldn't see many young men, as most were working abroad)
Culturally, I found the villagers in the Shing Valley to be the most conservative of any of the people I met in Central Asia: this is the only place I've been where women would literally turn and run (or otherwise avoid me) if they saw me walking in their direction on a mountainside goat trail. In contrast, Pamiris tend to be much more modern, more educated, and with much more female empowerment (much of this is due to them being Ismaili Muslims following the progressive guidance of their spiritual leader, the Swiss-born Aga Khan). And although you'll find Islamic hospitality everywhere in Central Asia, it's arguably at it's strongest and most genuine in the Pamir region (beware, however, that you may encounter find something similar to Iranian taarof, where they will ceremoniously refuse payment for things or almost invite you to pay less, even when at an official homestay... remember it is generally up to you to insist on paying if this situation arises, especially if it's apparent that the family is poor and that you will be a burden on the family's finances).
I would try to do both if possible.