Penjikent is one of the most colorful Tajik city. Its second name is “Oriental Pompeii” and it totally justifies it. This relatively small city with population of 33,000 people, the city on the very East of ancient Sogdiana has more valuable artifacts that the rest of Sogdiana and famous Afrosiab.
The name of one of the most ancient cities in Central Asia is translated as “five villages”. In 5th-8th centuries, this small, but flourishing city was one of the largest cultural and craft centers of Zoroastrian Sogdiana. Ancient Penjikent was full of magnificent buildings with engravings and statues. No caravan could pass by this city, while travelling from mountains to Samarkand. This fact helped development of the city immensely. Unfortunately, this extraordinary city was ruined in 8th century, by the Arabs. The ruins of an ancient city with its treasures is located outside of modern city. Penjikent managed to preserve as many artifacts of Tajik culture, as no other city did. All beautiful frescoes, bas-reliefs, and sculptures helped to fully reconstruct Sogdian lifestyle.
Monuments in Penjikent have no equivalents in Central Asia. Archaeological excavations revealed a citadel with a palace, necropolis with perfectly preserved elements of wall-painting, houses, and administrative buddings. The city is, also, called “ocean of Sogdian paintings”. Ruins of all the buildings preserved paintings that allow to catch a glimpse of rituals of the Sogdians. Another interesting monument is Sarazm settlement not far from the city; its history dates back 4th-2nd centuries BC. He settlement has well-preserved pagan temples and palaces.
Hard to imagine a better place than Penjikent for diving into history of the Sogdians. This center of Oriental civilization will expose you to customs and lifestyle of people that used to live there.