The attractive northern city of Khojand (Худжанд; Khojent/Khujand, formerly Leninabad) is Tajikistan's second-largest. Commanding (and taxing) the entrance to the Fergana Valley, the founding father, Komil Khojandi, built palaces, grand mosques and a huge citadel here before the Mongols destroyed most traces of it in the early 13th century. Famed as the point where Alexander the Great once founded his northernmost Central Asian outpost, Alexandria-Eskhate, the city today is an outward-looking commercial hub whose museums, bazaars and parks offer much to keep a visitor engaged for a day or two.
Despite Khojand's strong Uzbek contingent, the city is proud of its links to Tajikistan's ruling elite. When President Nabiev, a Khojand man, was unseated in 1992 and Tajikistan appeared to be evolving into an Islamic republic, Khojand province threatened to secede. Secure behind the Fan Mountains, it escaped the ravages of civil war and remains the wealthiest part of the country.