According to wholevehicles, the capital of Turkmenistan, Ashgabat, like most of its “brothers” in the Central Asian capitals, traces its history from a modest settlement of the Tekin tribe. This Turkic-speaking people once chose a small plot of land in the foothills of the Kopetdag mountain range at the intersection of caravan roads and gave the new place the poetic name Eshg-abad, which literally means “populated by lovers”. At the end of the 19th century troops of the Russian Empire came to Eshg-Abad and founded a military garrison, then laid a railway, and by the beginning of the 20th century, an inconspicuous settlement turned into a completely modern city of 30,000 people. Today Ashgabat is an amazingly beautiful snow-white city, where authentic oriental flavor and European spirit perfectly complement each other: here you can still wander all day in the narrow passages of noisy bazaars.
How to get to Ashgabat
From Moscow to Ashgabat you can arrive by flights of “Turkmenistan Airlines”, departing from the capital of our country on all days of the week, except Sunday. Another air carrier, S7, flies to the capital of Turkmenistan from Moscow’s Domodedovo twice a week, on Tuesdays and Saturdays.
From the airport of Turkmenistan. The Great Saparmurat Turkmenbashi can be easily reached in the city center by taxi or “private trader” – the trip will cost about 5-6 USD, the exact price should be clarified when landing.
Transport in the city
It is most convenient to travel around Ashgabat by taxi, since they are extremely cheap and almost every car, both with checkers and without them, is ready to take you to an arbitrarily long distance. The fare must be discussed before boarding the car.
You can also ride trolleybuses and buses in the city – more for the sake of exotic than for business. Traveling in them is even cheaper than in a taxi, but the speed is much lower.
Cuisine and restaurants of Ashgabat
Ashgabat fast food – manti (dumplings with steamed minced lamb) and a variety of “dense” pies with meat, onions and potatoes. In restaurants of national cuisine, you can eat pilaf to the fullest – there are more than 30 varieties of it, as well as try a variety of exotic meats: camel meat, mountain goat and other wild artiodactyls. Exceptions are pork (according to the norms of religion) and horse meat, which is prohibited by law.
Another gastronomic “trick” of Turkmenistan is the white fish of the Caspian Sea. Sturgeon and stellate sturgeon are especially delicious at Asuda Nusay, on Alisher Navoi Street. In addition, in Ashgabat there are a lot of establishments of friendly cuisines – mainly Central Asian, Iranian and Middle Eastern. It is worth visiting the Lebanese Dip Club for shawarma, the Turkish Erzurum for the national pide pizza, and the Asian Minara.
In drinking establishments, we certainly recommend trying strong brewed green tea with sweets, dried fruits and nuts.
Shopping and stores
For inexpensive souvenirs and expensive works of applied art, head to the bazaar with a simple and clear name “flea market”, buzzing with life on Saturdays and Sundays near the airport (it’s worth taking a taxi). Here you can buy everything your heart desires – from a lamb skin and a skullcap to a colorful robe and an intricate carpet. The flea market closes its activities by about 2:00 pm, so it is recommended to go there in the morning. At the Russian bazaar “Gulistan” you can buy fruits and vegetables, clothes, interior items and other usual market stuff.
The main “carpet” place in Ashgabat is the store at the Museum of Carpets. The cost of products is from 10 USD for a modest felt bedding to 500 USD for an immaculately woven beautiful carpet. Printed products – books, albums, postcards, etc. can be found in the bookstore under the Ministry of Culture and Miras (in the very center of the city, side by side with the University).
Paintings should be found in the art gallery “Muhammed”.
Entertainment and attractions of Ashgabat
Considering the short “adult” history of Ashgabat, there are no ancient monuments on its territory. In the vicinity (15 km to the west) it is worth visiting the ruins of the ancient settlement of Nisa dating back to the 1st millennium BC. e., since 2007 included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. The city was once the capital of the powerful Parthian kingdom and was founded by King Mithridates I. Here you can see the remains of two fortresses – Old and New Nisa, the royal residence and “office”, respectively, as well as temples, palace halls, the royal treasury and the graves of the Arsacids dynasty.
Also 15 km from Ashgabat, but in the other direction, is the native village of Turkmenbashi Kipchak. Here you can see how a tidy sum of 100 million dollars was embodied in a white marble mosque, you know whose name you know. Its total area is 18 thousand (!) sq. m. km, and the prayer hall can simultaneously accommodate 10,000 believers. Here, in the sarcophagus, the hero of the occasion rests.
Another gastronomic “trick” of Turkmenistan is the white fish of the Caspian Sea. Sturgeon and stellate sturgeon are especially tasty.
It is interesting to visit the museums of Ashgabat – the wonderful Museum of Carpets, which tells about the history of carpet weaving, traditions and ways of weaving carpets, as well as many artifacts are exhibited – from the oldest copy (17th century) to the modern giant of 301 square meters. m, called “The Golden Age of the Great Saparmurat Turkmenbashi”. In the National Museum you can learn more about the history of the country and see the items found at the excavations of Merv, Nisa, Kunya-Urgench, and in the Museum of Fine Arts you can appreciate the works of Russian, European and Central Asian artists on the Turkmen theme. The National Treasury exhibits silver jewelry for women and horses (!) and copies of the golden sculptures of Altyn-tepe.
You should definitely walk around the colorful medieval bazaars: the huge Dzhygyllyk, Gulistan, Lalezar and the Tekinsky bazaar.
Among the architectural structures of our time, the palaces of Turkmenbashi and Rukhyet, the Monument of Independence and the Arch of Neutrality, business centers, parks and fountains stand out. You can breathe fresh air surrounded by sculptures of the great figures of the Turkmen people – from the mythical Oguz Khan to the Seljuk sultans, spiritual leaders and poets – in Independence Park.