Because it is an isolationist nation ruled by a “president for life,” Turkmenistan has harbored the same mysticism that cloaks North Korea, making Turkmenistan be called the “North Korea of Central Asia.” Turkmenistan may be bigger than California and nearly as large as Spain, but 80 percent of this vast country is a lunar landscape: the Garagum (Kara-kum or Black Sand) Desert is one of the driest places on Earth. All of the nation’s few cities, however, are important Silk Road stopovers, with UNESCO World Heritage Sites and rambling reminders of empires from decades past.
Saparmurat Niyazov, the country’s post-Soviet leader, has declared himself as the country’s “President for Life,” thereby ordering palaces, gold statues, marble monuments, and other billion-dollar constructions to be built in the capital, Ashgabat, to glorify himself. Although he died in 2007, Niyazov is still honored like a god all over the country, outshining Turkmenistan’s past kings and conquerors like Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan.
Middle Eastern culture
Apart from Niyazov, the Turkmen today generally worship Allah. They are proud of their Islamic heritage, shamanism, nomadic ways, and national emblem, Akhal-Teke horse, a breed of fast and sturdy horses rarely found anywhere else on Earth. Unlike their black-clad counterparts from the rest of the Islamic world, the Turkoman women wear colorful ankle-length dresses and headscarves, bedecked with Turkmen motifs. The Turkomans’ yomut and Bokhara carpets are famous since the ancient times for their fiery red color and geometric designs.
Gates of hell, slices of paradise
Another fiery wonder in Turkmenistan is Darvaza Flaming Crater, believed to be “the gates of hell” for its non-stop fire triggered by natural gases. Kow Ata, an underground sulfur lake, is famous for its warm and medicinal waters. Kugitang, a nature reserve, has fossils of human and dinosaur footprints.
Travel and Inspire
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