Tajikistan: Ancient Panjakent

The ancient city of Panjakent was the capital of the Sogdiana Empire, a civilization that controlled a sprawling empire in the pre-Islamic Middle East and Central Asia. Panjakent literally means “five villages” in Persian and the city flourished around the 5-7 centuries AD with palaces and a massive citadel and residential quarters and defensive walls all around. But it was all hastily abandoned when the Arab conquered it in 722. The city laid in ruins until excavations began in 1946 and whole rooms full of treasures and mosaics and decorations were unearthed. A lot of the treasures are now displayed in the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg in Russia. The ancient city site may not look like much – the clay structures don’t last long under the elements, but standing here on the hill and contemplating the grandness of it all is priceless! Sogdianians followed Zoroastrian religion and many temples, necropolises, and fire-altars were all around the ancient town.