Turkmenistan is a weird police state – not unkindly – dubbed “The North Korea of Central Asia”. And it too, comes with an intense-dead-leader-cult. Turkmenbashi … is everywhere.

ashgabat-turkmenistan monument

National monument in Ashgabat in winter.

And so is his successor (rumoured to be his illegitimate son). The Turkmen capital of Ashgabat is a showpiece city of gloriously – often absurd – monuments and opulent, modern-Islamic architecture. Shiny white marble with golden domes and gold trimming are everywhere.

Ashgabat has been glamorized with from gas revenues. Meanwhile the countryside – rural desert regions – remain in dishevelled poverty. Ashgabat was a surreal showcase under snow – at the time, with police and soldiers guarding every central-street corner (often telling me to put my camera away).

I could only get a 5-day-transit visa for Turkmenistan; a tourist visa requires tons of visa-approval-BS and then are you assigned a 24/7-guide @ $100+ per day for your entire trip.

 Travels in Turkmenistan – 2011

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