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The term 'predominantly mountainous' doesn't do justice to a country where over 90% of the land is upland. This fact of nature has given Tajikistan a precious advantage over its neighbours, namely some of the most inspiring, high-altitude landscape in the world. Within an hour of Dushanbe lie multi-hued lakes, peaks that beg to be climbed and high passes that thrill even reluctant travellers. In among this natural splendour are scattered villages and towns that survive cheek-by-jowl through each extreme season. It hasn't been easy for these traditional communities to adapt to the changing world beyond their mountain strongholds, but despite this they are unfailingly welcoming of outsiders and cheerfully excuse cultural faux-pas as part and parcel of their proud democracy. For visitors tolerant of a few travelling hardships (outdoor loos, cold water, potholed roads), the country more than compensates with a rare glimpse into life lived on 'The Roof of the World'.