Turkmenistan

Deep in the Heart of the Kopet Dag

When you smell the rotten eggs, you know you’re getting close! Tuck under the foothills of the Kopet Dag mountains, the Kow-Ata Underground Lake provides a nice hot spring experience in the middle of sandy deserts. On the surface, desert stretches in one direction while layers of hills turn to mountains in the other. Below … Continue reading »

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Dying in Style

For a man with the stature of Turkmenbashi, no normal tomb will do. It must be a grand marble mausoleum, built to house the whole family. It must be situated just next door to an even grander marble mosque, large enough to hold the whole extended family. And so the world has the Gypjak mosque. … Continue reading »

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Mary the Museum

When I think of Central Asian regional museums, I usually don’t expect a whole lot. I was really pleasantly surprised, then, the with Mary Museum. Though the cost was a bit more than I expected, it was full not only of old cultural artifacts from the nearby ancient city of Merv but also of locally … Continue reading »

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A Cult of Personality

Part of what makes Turkmenistan feel like such a strange place is that Turkmenbashi is EVERYWHERE. Born Saparmurat Niyazov and orphaned as a young boy by an earthquake that leveled much of Ashgabat, when he took power as leader of Turkmenistan he styled himself Turkmenbashi (“Leader of all Turkmen”) and seemingly began building statues of … Continue reading »

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Raiders to Ranchers

The Turkoman tribes of what is now Turkmenistan were long feared as famous raiders and slavers who prowled the black-sand desert plundering caravans and harassing Russian army¬†expeditions. And what good, I ask you, is a nomadic desert raider without an epic-strength horse? While the Turkmen may not be quite so violent as history would tell, … Continue reading »

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First Reflections on Turkmenistan

There’s a reason Turkmenistan is sometimes referred to as the North Korea of Central Asia. The tourist rules are super restrictive, there’s a huge cult of personality built up around the former ruler (Turkmenbashi – literally “Leader of all Turkmen”), the state long controlled most media and nearly all of the resources, and the first … Continue reading »

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