Hissor (Гиссар) is a town located about 25 kilometers drive Southwest from Dushanbe in the Hisor Valey along the Khanaka river which soon joins the River Kafirnigan which then joins Amu Darya later at the border of Afghanistan and Tajikistan. There is also another larger town named Hissor in English but Хисор in Cyrillic letters West from Dushanbe so make sure that if you are trying to reach the fortress go to the first mentioned. Hisor was the main settlement of the area until Dushanbe started to develop as the capitol of the Soviet republic of Tajikistan and was an important tradition post between Samarkand and Termez in present day Uzbekistan.
Hissor is most known of its ancient fortress the fortress which stands on a hill guarding the valley between 2 mountain ranges to East and to West. Historical records mention fortress in Hisor as far back as 1000 BC. More recent records of the fort relate to the time when Cyrus the Great founded the first Persian Empire around 550 BC. Not much of the original fort is remained as it has been destroyed and rebuilt again and again due to its strategical position and different parts of the fortress have been added during different time periods the most latest being the quite touristic partial reconstruction having places for sellers inside to sell souvenirs for tourists. The latest restoration has used the 18th century fortress, that was destroyed by the red army, as the model Nevertheless the place is worth seeing if you are in Dushanbe and have time for a day trip. The oldest surviving part of Hisor Fort is the arched gate, which is from around the year 500 AD. You can also see some not reconstructed parts of the walls if you venture a bit further into the hill towards West.
In addition to the fortress there are two madrasas on the other side of the square / park area to the South. The 2 madrassas are very similar to the ones that you largely see in Uzbekistan and one of them has a museum inside telling about the Tajikistan’s rural past and housing some Soviet era memorabilia. Next to the madrasas there are the ruins of a caravanserai that was built in 1808 but most of it’s material was moved to Dushanbe in order to build a theatre during the Soviet era. You can also find the remains of a bathhouse between the madrasas. One of the madrasas also house the Sangin Mosque inside one of it’s walls with some nice acoustics inside.
The 1500s mark the building of several components of the fort, namely the wall where the main gate is located, the Old Madrassa, the Makhdumi A’zam Mausoleum, and some additions to the Old Mosque. One of the latest additions next to the fort is a caravanserai from 1808, a place for Silk Road traders and their camels to safely spend the night. Only the lower part of the caravanserai remains, as the top layer was taken by the Soviets to build a theater in Dushanbe.
If you visit Hisor during Sunday you have a good chance to see part of the local wedding festivities as it is a place where the local people gather for photos. Inside the fortress a wedding ceremony building added recently which has increased the popularity of the place amongst the locals even further.
Some people also tell that the local bazar in Хисор is a more authentic experience than the ones in Dushanbe and provide a better insight for the daily life of the Tajiks.
How to get to hissor
You can reach Hisor the easiest with a car by driving the M41or getting a taxi, all the drivers know where you are going. If you are using the public transportation you should take the minibus to Hisor from the Zarnisar bazar in Dushanbe, which you can reach with the bus number 8. Bear in mind that you still need to move around 5km inside Hissor from the local bus station to the fortress area to the South. There is also a train connection from Dushanbe to Hissor several times a day which also requires a second transport inside Hissor.