Official Name: Turkmenistan
Total area: 488,1OO sq. km
Density: 8 people per sq. km
Languages: Turkmen, Russian, English
Religions: Muslim 85%, Eastern Orthodox 10%, other 5%
Ethnic mix: Turkmen 78%, Uzbek 9%, Russian 6%, Kazakh 5% and others 2%
Government: Single party republic
National currency: Manat
Turkmenistan is situated in the very heart of Central Asia, between the Caspian Sea in the west and the great Amu Darya River in the east, and from the Aral Sea littoral steppes in the north to the Kopet Dag mountain range to the south. Turkmenistan is an independent state; founded in 1991 after the disintegration of the USSR, five years later it attained a unique political status which was recognized by the United Nations Organization. The founder of the State and former national leader of Turkmenistan, President Saparmurat Turkmenbashy clearly specified the character of his country and its place in the sophisticated geopolitical space with a capacious formulation of “permanent neutrality”. Upon his death in 2006, new President-elect Berdymukhammedov has, for the most part, continued Turkmenbashy’s political course.
According to historians’ assessments, the history of civilizations which have existed in this land throughout the past covers almost five thousand years. Remains of those vanished cultures can be found here almost everywhere: in the desert and the foothills of mountains, along the channels of dry rivers and in caves. Traces of human activity have been preserved in the form of implements, domestic utensils and real works of art made of stone and bone, ceramics and metal, including bronze, silver and gold. But it is the architecture which recollects the distant ancestors of the Turkmen, beginning with the earthenware houses, sanctuaries and formerly inaccessible fortresses of the ancient world to the luxurious palaces and temples of the Middles Ages. Certainly, few things that local towns were renowned for escaped destruction and remain intact today. The Biblical truth that everything is good in its season has been eloquently confirmed here.
Turkmenistan is the home of some of the World’s oldest civilizations, having made a significant contribution to the development of World culture. Modern Turkmenistan’s borders first appeared in the world around the same time as India and the Middle East. Historical sources prove that in the 3rd-2nd millennia BC two large states, which were consolidated nations living far from each other in the desert and river valleys, were established on the territory of present-day Turkmenistan.
Known as Scythians, Massagets, Saks, and Dakhs throughout Asia and Europe, our ancestors created powerful, mighty states uniting many peoples over a long period of time. In all, the Turkmen established over seventy large and small states throughout their legendary history in all parts of Asia and Eastern Europe. How did our forefathers govern the lands they ruled? How did they manage to preserve peace and order?
There is only one answer: the steady character of a Turkmen and the tender harmony of his soul. Turkmen have at all times remained courteous people devoted to the traditions of hospitality. They have always treated a guest as a messenger of Allah. Hence, there is a proverb: “The guest is higher than the father”. Being people of word and honor, Turkmen have always fulfilled their obligations under treaties and agreements concluded with other states. “Any Turkmen, if he had given his word, would break it in no way, even should it threaten his life and freedom”, wrote a traveler of the distant past in amazement.
Depending on the size of groups, we use different types of vehicles.
For large groups, air-conditioned tour buses (40-45 seats) are provided.
For smaller groups, air-conditioned minibuses are provided (3-9 seats).
To individual travelers we offer passenger cars (1-2 persons).
For some routes, flights are available (from Ashgabat to: Mary, Turkmenabad, Turkmenbashy, and Dashoguz).
International carriers flying into Ashgabat include Lufthansa and Turkish airlines, which fly 3 and 4 times a week respectively, usually reaching Ashgabat late at night. Lufthansa stops over in Baku (Azerbaijan). Turkmenistan Airlines flies to London, Birmingham, Frankfurt, Beijing, Bangkok, Dubai, Abu-Dhabi and Istanbul at slightly more competitive rates. Further, there are daily connections to Moscow and one or two flights to other central Asian and CIS capitals, such as Tashkent and Kiev. Local flights are reasonable and have a good safety record on their frequently scheduled flights between Ashgabat and Turkmenistan’s regional centers.
Rail: There are no international trains between Turkmenistan and other States. Daily departures are available to Turkmenabad, Mary and Turkmenbashy, while trains leave for Dashoguz every other day.
Turkmenistan has an arid desert climate with extreme summer heat and sub-freezing winter temperatures. Turkmenistan enjoys a dry, continental climate, with very hot summers (rarely below 35°C and occasionally up to 50°C in the southeastern regions of the Karakum Desert). Turkmenistan enjoys an average of 250 sunny days annually. In the south of Turkmenistan the climate is also slightly more continental than in the north and temperatures seldom drop below 5°C. Northern areas, near the Uzbek border and Khorezm (Dashoguz), can become very cold in winter with temperatures dropping below -20°C. The best months for moderate temperatures are April and May for the beautiful blossoming deserts and mountains. September and October are great for an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables, in the autumn harvest season. There is snow in the north, as well as above 1,000m in the mountains in January and February.
UTC + 5 hours (UTC stands for Universal Time Coordinated).
Permission from the Ministry of Culture is required to export carpets or other objects of art. Carpets produced before 1975 may not be exported. Export certificates for carpets are issued by the Museum of Carpets, which seals the carpets and issues export certificates, after the appropriate fee has been paid in manat currency (amount depends on the size of carpet).The best place to buy carpets is Tolkuchka Bazaar.
Turkmen language belongs to the Turkic group of languages (closely related to Turkish) and has been the official language since 1990. It is therefore now used in all official state and literary matters. The Cyrillic script used during Soviet times has gradually been discontinued, in favor of the Latin alphabet. Turkmen, Russian and English are the most widely known languages.
Freedom of worship was introduced in 1989. The majority of the population is Sunni Muslim. As Islam was introduced by the dervish order, Sufism is still evident in parts of Turkmenistan. This is a branch of Islam which believes in mysticism and treats all secular matters with contempt.
Islam is a part of the new national identity (evident, for instance, in the new flag) and plays an important role in the everyday life of the people. Nevertheless, most Turkmen have adopted western customs and habits.
They are also very tolerant of other religions. Religions: Muslim 85%, Eastern Orthodox 10% and other 5%.
It is essential to observe the same health precautions in Turkmenistan as for any country. One should not drink tap water. Hence, hot tea, coffee and bottled drinks are safe to consume. It’s also advisable to avoid meat, fish or poultry which have not been well cooked, unwashed fruit, raw vegetables and non-pasteurized dairy products. It is recommended to buy all food products in local supermarkets.
As there is a shortage of medicines and personal hygiene items in Turkmenistan, it is recommended to pack a well equipped first aid kit, as well as most toiletries.
In order to take Turkmen carpets and jewelry out of the country you need to present an official receipt and registration form from the State or Hotel shop where you bought the items to customs officials. Items purchased otherwise, such as those bought at Tolkuchka Bazaar are subject to a documentation procedure that requires our assistance and takes a little more time. Many antique souvenirs, especially silver, and items dating back as little as 20 years are entirely restricted from export.
Practical, light clothing is quite sufficient in Turkmenistan. More elegant dress is advisable for business meetings or social events. Light cotton clothing is advisable in the hot summer months, while warm attire – a hat, gloves and boots are essential for the cold winter. One should not forget that Turkmenistan is a Muslim country, even though the people are very western in their ways and there are no strict rules to observe.
The cuisine of Turkmenistan is very similar to that of other Central Asian countries (especially Iran) and predominantly comprises rice, vegetables, and various meats (mutton, lamb, beef and poultry).
Meals often begin with soup. A popular soup is chorba, meat and vegetable soup. Plov is the national dish. It basically consists of rice, mixed with mutton, onions, carrots, spices, raisins, peas or quinces. Poultry is sometimes used instead of mutton. Manty are small dumplings, filled with lamb and steamed. Ku’urma is lamb cooked in its own fat; Ichlekli – meat and onion pies, cooked in hot sand. Gutap, a meat filled pie, potatoes, spinach or pumpkin is a local favorite. Turkmen people like to drink “gok chai”- green tea with dried fruit. Herbs may also be added to the tea to give it flavor, such as mint…
According to natural conditions, Turkmenistan is located across three main natural landscape zones: deserts, oases and mountains. 13 different natural areas may be distinguished in the country: plains 15%, mountains and foothills 12%; water and non-soil formations (talus, rocks, and precipices) occupy the majority of the country’s surface – 73%. The Karakum desert occupies the northern and central part of the country (about 80% of its territory).
The highest point in Turkmenistan is Ayrybaba Peak of the Koytendag Mountain Range (3,139 m); the lowest point is the Akchakaya depression in the northwest of the Zaunguz Karakum (-81 m). The length of Turkmenistan’s coastline on the Caspian Sea is 1,200 km.
The wildlife of Turkmenistan is marvelous. The Kopetdag mountains harbor Central Asia’s most thriving population of leopards and mountain sheep; the only remaining wild population of Kulan is found in the Badkhyz nature reserve, together with other large carnivores, leopard, hyena, lynx and a thriving population of gazelles and mountain sheep.
1 January – New Year’s Day
12 January – Memorial Day
19 February – State Flag of Turkmenistan Day
8 March – International Woman’s Day
March 20-21 – Nowruz Bayram, national spring holiday
First Sunday in April – “A Drop of Water-A Grain of Gold” Festival
Last Sunday in April – Turkmen Racing Horse Festival
8 May – Day of Commemoration of the National Heroes of the 1941-1945 World War
9 May – Victory Day (World War II)
May 18-19 – Day of Revival, Unity, and the Poetry of Makhtumkuli
Last Sunday in May – Turkmen Carpet Festival
Third Sunday in July – Galla Bayramy Festival
Second Sunday in August – Turkmen Melon Day
Second Saturday in September – Day of the Workers in the Oil, Gas, Power, and Geological Industry
Second Sunday in September – Turkmen Bakhshi Day
6 October – Day of Commemoration and National Mourning (“Earthquake Commemoration Day”)
October 27-28 – Independence Day
First Sunday in November – Health Day
Last Sunday in November – Harvest Festival, Good Neighborliness Day
12 December – Day of Neutrality and Day of Student Youth
Oraza (Ramadan) one month Muslim fasting period, approx. 01-30.08.2011 and 20.07-19.08.2012
Oraza Bayram (Eid ul-Fitr) one day Muslim end of fast holiday, approx. 30.08.2011 and 19.08.2012
Kurban Bayram (Eid ul-Adha) three day Muslim holiday, approx. 6-9.11.2011 and 25-28.10.2012
Ahal velayat is situated in the centre of the southern part of Turkmenistan at the border of Karakum desert.
Its climate is sharply continental with hot and dry summer.
The area of Ahal is 98 000 km2 and its population is about 700 000 people. The administrative centre of this velayat is Anau city, other big towns are Abadan and Tedzhen.
Akhal velayat is an important industrial region of Turkmenistan, having such major industrials as natural gas extraction, the production of building materials and textile production – the biggest in the world factory of denim, knitted and cotton fabrics has been put into operation in Geok depe and Kaka in resent years.
The agricultural priorities are given to the cultivation of fine-fibered cotton, vegetables and stockbreeding. The tourist itineraries around the velayat are diverse and interesting. Some of them make the acquaintance with historical and architectural monuments of towns – fortresses of Khivabad and Abiverd, the ancient town of Serakhs and pilgrim routes to the sacred places of Ak Ishan, Dowgala, Zengi Baba, Kyrk-Gyz, Archman-Ata, Shekshi-Islam and Abul-Seid Meikhene. Perfect rest and medical treatment can be offered at the heart resort of Archman known since the old times for its curative properties of radon mineral waters. There is also a unique cave with the underground lake “Kow-Ata”. This cave is 250m long, 65m. deep and 50m. wide. The water of this lake is constantly warm, clean and contains 30 chemical elements of the periodic table. The south of Akhal is rich of mountain ravines, which represent wonderful place for picturesque picnic. The magic mountains in the area of Archabil and Geokdere are very good for mountaineering under a supervision of a skilful trainer. This magnificent land is the motherland of the beautiful breed of horses – Akhalteke.
Balkan velayat – is situated in the western part of Turkmenistan, includes a deserted plateau on peninsula to the east of coast of Caspian Sea between Garabogazkol gulf and the city Turkmenbashy. The region is known for its succession of flat sandy hills and saline hollows. The south west of Balkan velayat lies in a dry subtropical zone that is good for such valuable fruit trees as fig, pomegranate, olive, pistachio and others. The area of the velayat is 139 000 km2. and its population is about 400 000 people. The capital is Balkanabad. Other industrial centers are Turkmenbashy, Khazar and Serdar.
In the field of industrial development, the priority is given to the fuel-energy complex. Chemical and food industries are also of a great importance.
Recently the major gas mains such as Turkmenistan – Iran and Bereket – Serdar have been put into operation. These are a number of industrial enterprises – porcelain works, oil refinery and flour mill in Balkanabat. Large – scale restoration works have been carried out at oil and gas deposits of Burun and Korpedzhe. Balkan velayat is well known for its spinal rehabilitation sanatorium in Mollagara. This region has good prospects in the field of tourism for ancient architectural monuments and excellent seacoast area. The Caspian coast is famous for its remarkable sands, clear water, abundant sea flora and fauna, favorable for underwater sports. The most popular seaside places are Khazar and Avaza (suburb of Turkmenbashy). Later it became the national tourist zone. The tourist itineraries around Balkan normally include a recreation at the Caspian coastline, trips to historical monuments such as mysterious, ghostly ruins of the medieval city of Dekhistan and others, as well as a visit to a wonderful, fantastically beautiful subtropical area of Turkmenistan, the valley of the Sumbar River in Garrygala. Tourists will make acquaintance with life and works of Makhtymguly Pyragy, outstanding Turkmen poet and classic of the oriental literature, in his native village Gerkez.
Dashoguz velayat is located in the northern part of Turkmenistan on the left bank of the Lower Amu Darya, in the Karakum desert. The area of this region equals 73000 km2 and its population is 1.1 million inhabitants. The northern part of the region is occupied by the ancient delta of the Amu Darya River, the Sarykamysh Hollow with a lake, and the southeast part – by the Ustyurt plateau. The administrative centre is Dashoguz city.
The climate of Dashoguz velayat is sharply continental with hot and dry summer and cold winter period. Mostly sands with rather poor vegetation as haloxylon, sedge and wormwood cover the territory of this region.
The branches of the economy are represented mainly by light and food industries. Among major enterprises is the cotton spinning mill and the textile complex in Dashoguz city as well as the production of building and construction materials. In the field of agriculture, the velayat is a big supplier of cotton, vegetables, fruits, gourds and grain cultures. Animal husbandry is also well developed.
Dashoguz velayat occupies a special place in history and culture of Turkmen land. The unique oriental architectural pearl of the Middle Ages was Urgench city (present Kunergench). The biggest diamonds in the diadem of religious buildings of Kuneurgench are the remained buildings of the mausoleum of Turabek-Khanim and the minaret of Kutlug-Timur. The majestic power of the magnificent fortresses of Devkesen, Shasenem, Izmukshir, Kenevas seizes every visitor.
Lebap velayat is situated on the both side of the Amu Darya River; having the Karakum desert on the left and the Karabil hills in the north. In northwest of the right bank of the river there is the edge of Kyzylkum desert, in the center Sundukli sands, in the southeast the mountain range Kugitang. The area of the velayat equals 94 000 km2. The capital is Turkmenabad, other industrial towns are Atamurat, Magdanly and Seydi.
The climate of Lebap is sharply continental, droughty hot summer and moderately cold winter. The main industries are gas, food, textile and chemical branches – ammonium and carbamide works, a modernized gin in Turkmenabad.
Animal husbandry and agriculture are also well – developed braches of the region. Lebap velayat has good prospects regarding industrial and transport development. Tourist itineraries around the region include a trip to the reserved places of the Kugutang – magnificent mountains with luxurious primeval nature and abundance of the rare species of animal and plants. One can see here not only a sparking “Lunar landscape” and “Plateau of Dinosaurs” with paw prints of the pre-historic reptiles, but also contemplate wonderful pictures of the karst caves created by the nature’s fantasy. The other word wide known reserve is Repetek Biosphere Reserve that has many endemic species of representatives of flora and fauna. Besides, Lebap land also keeps many other secrets you can get in touch with just by visiting the city museum of Atamurat with its ancient caravanserais, mausoleums of Alamberdar and Astana-Baba, which continue to be the place of pilgrimage for many believers up to now.
Mary velayat is the southeastern region of Turkmenistan on the Turan Lowland, within the limits of the Karakum desert. The greater part of this region is represented by flat fertile lands and only the Unguz lowland that located in the north is occupied by saline soils of takyrs. To the west of the Tedzhen River, there is the plain of the Kopetdag Mountains connected in the south with the foothills of Paropamiz namely Badhyz Hills (1267m above the sea level). The area of this region is 87 000 km2 and its population is 1.2 million inhabitants. The administrative center is Mary city.
The following branches represent the industry: production of electric power, mineral fertilizers, cotton fabrics, knitted articles and others. The first in the country sugar refinery has been recently put into operation in the town of Mary. Stockbreeding and plant-growing branches are considerably advanced in the area. Mary historians refer to Turkmenistan territory as “the archaeological paradise” due to abundance of ancient burial-mounds, hiding inside the ruins of ancient towns. Mary velayat takes a special place in this respect. The main historical sight of this land is Ancient Merv. The excursion to Merv is like a magic travel in the time-machine back to II millennium BC. The images of the great past of Merv vividly appear in “Shakhudzhakhan” (“Soul of Kings”), city sites represented by ancient fortress walls, harmonious wonderful and ideally proportional mausoleum of Sultan Sandjar, the huge inverted cups-refrigerators (“sardobas”), where people kept snow, which never thawed even in most hot summer. In addition, among the most impressing sights of Mary velayat are the ruins of the ancient country of Margush. One day its inhabitants left this place, following the Murgab River that had changed its bed leaving behind the monuments of highest artistic and cultural heritage.