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Keeping the 'Stans Straight, part 4: Tajikistan
Location: Shares an eastern border with China and a southern border with Afghanistan.
In a nutshell: This small, mountainous ex-Soviet republic has historically been one of the poorest of the Central Asian republics, thanks in part to a civil war that lasted from 1992-1997; however, its economy has steadily improved in the last several years. Tajikistan's culture has much in common with Persian culture, and Tajik, the official language, is a variation of Persian. Brush up before you go.
How you know it: You don't.
Interesting factoid: In 1987, Dushanbe's mayor announced that his city would give their sister city, Boulder, Colorado, a traditional Tajik teahouse. It was built by 40 artisans in Tajikistan and shipped to Boulder in 200 separate crates. Though some assembly was required, the teahouse is now a beautiful, must-visit Boulder landmark. Almost ten years later, Boulder is paying Dushanbe back by building them an internet cafe. Well, better late than never.
Make sure to check out: The Pamir Mountains, some of the world's highest and breathtakingly beautiful.