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Gallery: Tajikistan celebrates Nowruz

Translated from Persian as New Day, Nowruz has been celebrated for over 3,000 years in Central and Western Asia, but before the collapse of the Soviet Union Iran was the only country to officially observe the holiday.  

Many ruling political parties have tried to curtail the festival’s popularity by deeming it un-Islamic, despite it being celebrated by many different types of Muslims across the world.

During the Taliban’s rule of Afghanistan, Nowruz was considered a pagan festival and was subsequently banned and while the Islamic Republic of Iran never outlawed the festival, public celebrations are looked on with contempt by religious fundamentalists. In 2009, the UN added Nowruz to UNESCO’s list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Before Tajikistan independence in 1991, Nowruz celebrations were illegal but now the event is marked by four days of public holiday. At the start of the celebrations, families’ traditionally spring clean their homes in anticipation of visitors from loved ones. On the first day, they sit down together at a table, known as dastarkhān. The traditional table setting is haft-seen, a combination of seven dishes, each starting with the letter ‘s’, including garlic, apples, vinegar, barley and dried fruit.

But celebrations are not confined to the home. Events are held in villages and cities and local communities hold dance performances and music recitals in town parks or squares. Comprised of food stalls and large bazaars, the festival is seen as a time for renewal and everyone is encouraged to behave as they wish to for the rest of the year. 

All images by Bahriddin Isamutdinov


The Institute for War & Peace Reporting gives voice to people at the frontlines of conflict and transition to help them drive change.