Aşgabad
(TURKMENISTAN)


Our trip started in Aşgabad, the capital of Turkmenistan. This is a very modern city, mainly because it was almost completely destroyed after an earthquake in 1948 and rebuilt afterwards.

After the independence in 1991 many new buildings were added, to give Aşgabad the grandeur of a true capital. And this is a process that's still going on, so we wonder what Aşgabad will look like in 10 years.

Very modern city in the desert

Flags and fountains

Changing of the Guard

One of the most interesting places is the Independence Monument. Although situated in the desert, the fountains keep the surroundings green and flowery. Just watch all those Turkmenistan flags, the green lanterns, the Changing of the Guards ceremony and the statues of all those people that have played in important role in the history of Central Asia (and Turkmenistan in particular).

Flags and lanterns

Mr. Niyazov, the president of Turkmenistan, who is also known as Türkmenbaşy the Great, the Father of Turkmens, is one of a kind. Lots of things in Turkmenistan are named after the president (either by himself or by his fans): streets, universities, a perfume, the airport, a city, etcetera, etcetera. Even the month of January has been renamed after the president. Furthermore, almost every street corner in Turkmenistan has a statue of the president. The statue below is actually a Lenin-statue, with a new head.

President Niyazov's head on Lenin's body

 The 'Ruhnama' book, also available in English

The president has written a book, called Ruhnama. This book contains very important lessons for every inhabitant of Turkmenistan. Turkmenistan parents usually give this book to their children as a wedding present. A copy of the book, in concrete of several meters tall, can be found next to the boulevard.

Brand new is the second volume of the book. This Ruhnama part II has (in a way) been written by the people of Turkmenistan themselves - by means of 125.000 letters to the president.

Another statue of the president: this one stands on the top of the Arch of Neutrality. This one has a an uncommon feature, the 12 meter high statue turns with the sun. This is even better than the Hugo de Groot statue in Delft, which turns every hour (but only when you're not looking).

The Arch of Neutrality

 Earthquake Monument

The monument with the bull reminds of the earthquake. In a folk story, the earth spins on top of the horn of a bull. When the earth is moved from one horn to the other, an earthquake occurs. We, who are Terry Pratchett fans, prefer the four elephants and the giant turtle ... less earthquakes that way.

Aşgabad Mosque

Aşgabad also has a big mosque, which according to a sign next to the entrance, is funded with Turkish money. Inside, the mosque is decorated with red patterns.

Inside the mosque

We visited the carpet museum, and found it really interesting. Carpets are made here from several materials, with reliëfs, decorated on both sides, and so on.

Very impressive is the largest handmade carpet in the world - listed in the Guinness Book of Records. And ... in the next room ... an even bigger carpet !!! Weren't those guys from the Guinness Book paying attention ??

More carpets can be seen at the bazaar. A visit to the bazaar is always a pleasure. In Aşgabad we especially like the colourful cakes.

Beautiful cakes at the market

As everywhere in the world: T.V. is very important.

Satellite TV is very important

And unlike some other places: for two days of living you need a stack of money.

Money money money

The banknotes with the highest values are 10.000 manats. For example, the entrance to the carpet museum will cost you 80.000 manats.

Very colourful

Shortly after our visit to Turkmenistan, president Niyazov died of a heart attack.

We wonder what will happen to Turkmenistan after his death.