In this week’s iteration of Concrete Ideas, we spotlight an emblematic teahouse in Dushanbe which was saved from demolition after a public campaign.
Built in 1958, the Rohat Chaikhana is one of Tajikistan’s oldest surviving teahouses, blending intricate local ornaments with the era’s stark and boxy Soviet architecture.
But the teahouse was long excluded from Tajikistan’s listed buildings, and in 2015, the structure risked being knocked down. (At the time, just four edifices made it onto the country’s list of protected buildings: the Opera and Ballet Theatre [erected in 1940-6], Tajikistan’s parliament building , the Ismoili Somoni Memorial Complex , and the Ancient Settlement of Dushanbe [dating back to the 3rd Century BC]). The proposed demolition was part of government plans to build a new swathe of high-rises. Similar developments in the 00s had already seen the demolition of Dushanbe’s central post office, the 1929-built Mayakovsky Russian Drama Theater, and the Jomi Movie Theatre. Yet miraculously, Rohat Chaikhana survived following public outrage. The authorities revised their decision and instead renovated the facade, which hosts a pair of large mosaics imitating Persian decorative motifs.
Raised on columns, over two floors, with decorated high ceilings and luxurious chandeliers, Rohat Chaikhana made it onto CNN’s list of the world’s top 11 teahouses in 2017. Located on Rudaki Avenue, Dushanbe’s main street, it serves traditional Tajik milk tea, alongside foods such as rice-based osh and shashlik kebabs. More importantly, it’s been a meeting place where both local men and women have come to socialise for decades.