Howdy all, with my final post from the enigma of a country that is Turkmenistan. It’s hard to summarise my experiences and feelings right now, and so I will leave that for when I am home in Australia. But this post I will wrap my final two days in Turkmenistan, a place I have visited on a tour. It’s been tiring and we have covered an awful lot of kilometres in the past five days, from the border in the north, further north to Konye-Urgench, south to Darvaza Gas Crater and further onto the capital Ashgabat.
Wednesday was a busy day too, one where I moved east and northwards to the cities of Mary and Merw. Wednesday was a day of history. Different parts of Turkmenistan from the west to the east have been strongholds at different stages of history, from well before AD up until late nineteenth century when Russia invaded and took control of Central Asia. The Soviet Union’s collectivisation policies saw Turkmenistan as basically a place to grow cotton. They got rid of Turkmen history and destroyed all by five mosques (of well over 400) across the country.
Today Turkmen embrace their history, and thanks to archaeologists they are learning and discovering more and more about the last few millennia in Turkmenistan.
Ultimately our goal was to see the ancient city of Merw, a power in the region until the 13th century when it fell to the Mongol invaders. Prior to that it had a history of over a thousand years booming before Islam came to the region. I was taken around and saw mausoleums, mosques, ice houses and more across this vast site, too much to go into any sort of detail in this post.
Earlier we sped away from Ashgabat and stopped at a mausoleum for Sayad Jamaledin, a pilgrimage site. The historic mausoleum was almost destroyed by the 1948 earthquake that flattened Ashgabat. But people still come in numbers to this site, and in fact there are facilities for cooking and preparing food in large amounts to share with family and anyone who might come along. It’s a place that reminded me so much of Iran and the sense of community.
We also stopped at the ruins of Abiwert, and also at a melon and pumpkin selling spot on the side of the road. Melons were something that Turkmenistan started growing along with wheat and pumpkins after independence, and some were pretty impressive – and the President is impressed by large fruit too if photos are anything to go by – there was a pumpkin that weighed 18 kilos!
Today has been a less busy day. I have to leave for the airport before 1 am, it’s nearly five pm here so I am thinking to try and get a bit of sleep before getting up and making my way to the airport. This morning I was able to capture a couple of the futuristic buildings of the city Mary. They are not to Ashgabat scale, but they are pretty impressive all considered.
I was also taken to a Russian Orthodox church over 100 years old, and saw stuck on a pole apparently the first ever jet-propelled Soviet plane. We also explored the local market at Mary. Then a long drive back towards the capital with a stop at Owlyaguly, a horse farm where they breed the most revered horse in all of Turkmenistan the ‘Akhal Teke’. The current President has bought three horses from the farm, or so I was told! The trainer brought out three or four horses and they jumped and ran a bit. I was the only guest there so it was a little weird I guess, it’s usually for groups.
Back in Ashgabat now, I visited their biggest shopping centre which certainly was very swish before heading back here to my hotel where I’m going to take some rest. Once home I will fully digest what I’ve seen and experienced here in Turkmenistan for you. It’s been a thoroughly interesting five days, that’s for sure
Thanks for reading, and May the Journey Never End!