Bread is Life and Art in Tajikistan

Bread is Life and Art in Tajikistan

Tajik “non,” traditionally baked in an outdoor tandoor oven made of clay with some sort of insulating material like concrete or mud on the outside

Poverty in Tajikistan has been a recurring challenge for hundreds of years, so feeding families has always been important. Bread or “non” is a precious staple, and it is frequently offered to guests as a symbol of hospitality. In rural areas, bread may make up a significant portion of daily caloric intake. If a Tajik has food but not non, he will often say he is out of food.

Because bread is so precious, it’s important to avoid letting bread drop on the ground and you never throw it away. Instead, you should place any bread crumbs or dropped pieces on a high wall or ledge for beggars, birds, or other hungry creatures so that it is never wasted. 

The traditional flatbread disc of non (or “kulcha” in Russian) is often a work of art, with the dough marked and pinched with traditional decorative patterns. Non discs can range in size from small individual rounds to large discs that will feed an entire family.

Large non flatbread disc.


For a great video showing bread being made in Tajikistan, watch this. If you want to try your own hand at baking non, check out this video.

And don’t think that bread is only about eating! The beautiful round pillows shown in the photo below reflect the traditional art of “quroq” (“patchwork”). But those “pillows” are not for decoration or seating. When finished, these pillows will serve as a surface for kneading, forming and decorating non before it goes into the oven!

Making “bread pillows” in the Pamirs.

So the next time you take a bite of bread, consider how easily everyday life can be transformed into art. And think about that invisible connection to your fellow art and bread lovers on the other side of the globe.


  • Diane

    Is this where the name Naan Bread comes from . Great story!

  • Laurel Erickson

    I visited Tajikistan in 1989 and again in 1991. The bread was beautiful, delicious, and served to us with salt as a welcome when our tour group departed our bus. A lovely part of the world, with friendly and delightful people.

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