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What is the Tajik word for ‘vegetarian’?

What is the Tajik word for ‘vegetarian’?

Well too be honest I have no idea, and knowing the Chinese doesn’t always help either when you speak Chinese as badly as me!

Whilst travelling through China I went on a short trip with a few friends along the Karakorum Highway. We spent a night in the border town of Tashkurgan which is the last stopping point for people travelling into Pakistan through the Khunjerab Pass. The photograph above is maybe not the most interesting one on my blog, but it is one of my personal favourites because for me it captures a memorable moment.

The population of Tashkurgan are predominantly Tajik and indeed this is the principle town for the Tashkurgan Tajik Autonomous County (part of China’s Xinjiang province).

The evening we arrived we wondered around town to find somewhere to eat and found a small restaurant which looked promising. The only problem was that none of us spoke Tajik and the people in the restaurant including the other customers didn’t speak English. This doesn’t always matter, but it does when you have to explain that one of your group is a vegetarian.

Have you ever tried explaining ‘no meat’ to someone who sells shashlik from a grill outside their restaurant and doesn’t speak your language!?

I’d learnt a few Chinese phrases after nearly two months in China, but they weren’t working, nor were the names of the few Uyghur dishes I knew – Xinjiang is a predominantly Uyghur region. My Chinese simply wasn’t up to the job, then I remembered I had a whole load of Chinese and Uyghur food terms and phrases on a piece of paper, and it had “I am vegetarian” on it…

My pronounciation of the Pinyin “Wo shi chisu de” just wasn’t cutting it, but the two Tajik girls working in the restaurant were by now curious and were determined to work out what we were trying to order. Some of the men eating in the restaurant were also keen to have a go too, so I gave the list to the girls and it was fascinating to watch them trying to work out what was on my scrap of paper. As you can see it was not in great condition after two months of usage.

Then finally there was a eureka moment when they realised what we’d been trying to say…

So, why do I love this picture?

For me it captures the girl’s intense concentration trying to work out what was on the paper, and it represents one of those moments in travelling when the local people you encounter go out of their way to help you!



I was in this town many years ago in the exact scenario.
I found a place to eat and started to explain my predicament.
After a while they finally understood I didn’t want meat, so they gave me a vegetarian soup. I returned to eat here a second and third time.
The third time something happened that I’ll never forget. As I was chomping away my soup I discovered a chunk of meat, I suddenly realised I was eating the meat soup with the meat removed.
That day I was not so vegetarian.


I’ve done something like this multiple times (although I’m not vegetarian). I lived in the province for almost 4 years and with all the different ethnic groups in Xinjiang it’s hard not to run into this problem! Funny pic.

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