Turkmenistan is a country of the Great Silk Road and the great Karakum Desert, located in the heart of Central Asia. With an area of 491,210 km2, Turkmenistan borders Afghanistan and Iran to the south, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan to the north, and is bounded by the Caspian Sea to the west. The Karakum Desert occupies more than 80% of Turkmenistan’s territory, while the foothills and mountains account for 15%. Turkmen is the official language of Turkmenistan and the religion is Islam.
Turkmenistan is a secular independent State following the path of development. The Republic is a full member of the world community, and sticks to permanent neutrality in its foreign policy. The capital and largest city of Turkmenistan is Ashgabat, whose name can be translated as “City of Love”. It is situated in the southwestern part of the country, in the vast oasis on the foothills of the Kopet-Dag Mountains, at the edge of a sultry desert. It is in Ashgabat that the main attractions and sights of the country are concentrated. Among all the modern sights of the white-marble city of Ashgabat it is worth highlighting such major ones as: Turkmenbashi Ruhy, Artogrulgazy and Gokdepe mosques, Turkmenbashi and Ruhyet palaces, Oguzkhan and Sons fountain complex, Monuments of Independence and Neutrality, television and radio broadcasting center, Alem cultural and entertainment center and, of course, Carpet Museum, where among many ancient exhibits one of the giant carpets of the world is located. Besides these, there are many other sights of Ashgabat, which attract the attention of visitors and fascinate them with its beauty.
Since ancient times large-scale historical actions unfolded on the Turkmen land, entire civilizations developed and collapsed, that is why these regions conceal many historical secrets and interesting discoveries. There are a lot of historical monuments, ancient constructions and other exciting and interesting places to see in Turkmenistan. Such as the ancient city of Kunya Urgench, Nisa, Merv, Gonurdepe and Altyndepe.
Besides the most interesting historical and modern monuments, Turkmenistan has numerous natural sights, such as: huge Karakum Desert with its classic barchans, Bakharden Cave and underground sulfuric lake Kow-Ata, burning gas crater Darwaza, dinosaur plateau – Hodzhapil, canyons of Yangykala, national parks Repetek, Koytendag, Kopetdag, and other interesting natural objects.
Another place worth mentioning is the Awaza National Tourist Zone, located along the Caspian Sea coast in the Balkan Province. On the sandy shore of the Caspian Sea with sea water enriched with minerals there are all necessary conditions for a good rest. The level of minerals in the seawater of Turkmenistan’s Caspian coast contributes to the mild climate of the sea region, and the salty waters of the Caspian Sea are famous for their healing effect. That is why there is a popular tourist zone Awaza, with its hotels, boarding houses, sanatoriums and health resorts, which are always ready to offer different options for recreation right on the Caspian Sea coast.
Turkmens are very friendly and hospitable people. Since ancient times Turkmens treat elders with special respect, especially it is noticeable with respect to elderly people. Of course, they demand special respect in respect of parents as the Turkmen proverb says: “Silver and gold do not grow old, and mother and father are priceless”. In general, Turkmens have a very strong kinship spirit, that is why people here are very reverent towards demonstrations of friendship and love and maintain good neighborly relations. There are a lot of proverbs and sayings on this subject: “A close neighbor is better than a brother living far away”, “If you live next door to a happy one, you will be happy too”.
The ancient history and influence of many peoples on Turkmens could not but leave a trace in the traditional Turkmen cuisine. It absorbed many Asian and European recipes. However, despite the obvious influence of other cultures and traditions, the Turkmen traditional cuisine still managed to preserve all its identity. A distinctive feature of Turkmen dishes has always been nourishing and relative simplicity of cooking, which, however, does not mean the simplicity of taste. Nowhere else in Central Asia, one can find so many kinds of soups as in Turkmenistan. This is chowder “unash”, and pea soup “gainatma”, and tomato soup “gara-chorba”, and many other variants of soup. What all this variety has in common is that each type of soup is based on “chorba,” a lamb broth. Flavorful Turkmen soups are often nutritionally superior to similar soups of their neighbors, and the limited amount of spices allows the flavors of meat and other ingredients to unfold fully. It is also worth mentioning the Turkmen types of pilaf. Pilaf in Turkmenistan is prepared in a completely different way than in neighboring Asian countries. Very often in addition to rice, meat, onions and carrots they add various dried and fresh fruits, which ennoble the other components and bring a note of freshness and unusual piquancy. Only here you can try the most unusual pilaf, which also uses fish instead of meat. Such pilaf cannot be distinguished from similar dishes of the East.
One of the most popular and world-famous Turkmen products are, of course, carpets. The beauty of Turkmen carpets, which remind of Turkmen expanses without any borders, surprises and captivates many people and it, is the talent of Turkmen women that lies behind all this. Turkmen folk proverb says: “The home in the East is where the carpet is laid”. Carpets are a bright symbol of the nation and an important element of spiritual and material culture of Turkmenistan. Masters of carpet making make carpets only by hand and use instruments and machines, which have not changed a bit during hundreds of years. Thinness of ornament of Turkmen carpets strikes and looks at them with impression of amazing volume.
Turkmens know the value not only of their carpets but also of their horses. For instance, one cannot take an Akhal-Teke horse out of the country at any cost. Akhal-Teke horses are one of the most ancient and beautiful breeds of horses. These horses have very sensitive and peculiar character, but at the same time, they have very good morals and unbelievable high intelligence. Akhal-Teke horse is the real work of art, a well-deserved pride of breeders, a result of work of many generations of Turkmen horse breeders. After seeing an Akhal-Teke horse at least once, it is impossible not to fall in love.
Along with the famous carpets and Akhal-Teke horses, the exquisite silver decorations with the traditional Turkmen clothes are a remarkable expression of Turkmen art and craftsmanship. Beautiful items of national clothing were created from silk and fabrics made by hand with the intricate silk embroidery. Since ancient times the traditional Turkmen clothes represented a clear harmony between the people and the environment. Young girls were taught the technique of making clothes from an early age. Each occasion had its own clothing with certain elements that told its own story, the legacy of which the Turkmen people still admire today.
As for the climate of Turkmenistan, it is sharply continental and characterized by hot, dry summers, and mild, short winters. In summer, the temperature in Turkmenistan can easily reach +45°C degrees. Winter in this eastern country begins in December, and the average temperature at this time of year is +10-15C degrees. The best time to visit Turkmenistan is spring or autumn.
Turkmenistan surprises and delights, deliciously feeds and colorfully celebrates holidays and has been fascinating connoisseurs of Asian culture for many years. Turkmens themselves say that their land is as sacred as the hearth of Turkmen, as pure as the conscience of Turkmens, as great as their pride and as strong as their faith. This country has a rich cultural heritage built up over thousands of years and it is really worth visiting.