Luxurious and deserted are the first two words that come to mind, when you see the capital of Turkmenistan. If you’re lucky enough to get visa, of course, because Turkmenistan is one of the most closed countries in the world. It’s very unlikely that an average traveler will be able to get visa on the pretext of sightseeing purposes. However, if you were able to get permission, you won the big jackpot! Ashgabat city is one of the most extraordinary capitals in Central Asia.
The name of the city is comprised of two words: “ashg”-love and “abad”-settlement. Ashgabat justifies its name fully, but the largest cultural, industrial and scientific center of the country is almost uninhabited. The city is divided into two parts: New Ashgabat and Old Ashgabat. The city was founded in 1881 on the ruins of the fortress. All buildings in the city were single stored and made out of clay. No buildings of the Russian Empire era were preserved; in 1925, when Ashgabat became the capital of Turkmen SSR, clay houses were replaced with typical Soviet style buildings. These buildings are still there and people live in them.
The most interesting part of the city is the newer one. Its construction started in 2000 and Ashgabat became the city with the biggest amount of buildings made out of white marble. Everything, from kindergartens and phone booths to palaces and administrative buildings is made out of white marble. You’ll be astonished by magnitude of construction; all buildings, parks, and monuments are adorned with gold and occupy giant areas, but, at the same time, New Ashgabat is dead. You won’t see people walking around on the streets, because they never do it. All buildings and monuments in Ashgabat city are grandiose. Turkmenbashi Ruhy Mosque is the largest single-domed mosque in Central Asia; luxurious hotel “Yyldyz”- the tallest building in the city is shaped like a cut diamond; the airport occupies area of 1,200 hectares and shaped like a hovering falcon.