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Introducing Dushanbe

Backed by a hazy phalanx of mountains, Dushanbe is a city in rapid transition. Its long, tree-lined central avenue still passes a collection of pastel-hued neoclassical buildings from its original Soviet incarnation. But much is threatened with the demolition ball as a whole new gamut of glitzy, oversized newcomers rise in a style that is often an intriguingly discordant blend of Roman triumphalism and budget futurism. The focus for this curious renaissance is a manicured central park dominated by a vast new museum and the world's tallest flag pole. Around the edges, the city has plenty of musty Brezhnev-era apartment-block ghettos. Yet remarkably, especially given the city's dangerous image during the 1990s' civil war, today the atmosphere is one of unthreatening calm… perhaps not unrelated to the fact that so much of the male population are away working in Russia.