Friday, 18 January 2019

TURKMENISTAN: Ashgabat The City Of Love And Devotion

Ashgabat is the capital of Turkmenistan, surrounded by Ahal Province. Ashgabat is a showpiece capital. It has been designed, at the cost of billions of dollars, to show the world about the glories and accomplishments of the Turkmen.

The city looks like none other on Earth, a thoroughly artificial collection of white marble buildings across a long, dry valley. At sunrise or sunset, there's a beauty to this uniform, outsized ambition, as if the set of a science-fiction film suddenly became an actual human settlement.

During the scorching days, when walking from monument to monument across the shadeless streets, or trying to locate anything resembling normal human life in the center, Terry Gilliam's Brazil seems like the most accurate comparison.

Ashgabat between 1919 and 1927, is the capital and the largest city of Turkmenistan in Central Asia, situated between the Karakum Desert and the Kopet Dag mountain range.

The city was founded in 1881, and made the capital of the Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic in 1924. Much of the city was destroyed by the 1948 Ashgabat earthquake but has since seen extensive renovation under President Saparmurat Niyazov's urban renewal project.

The Karakum Canal runs through the city, carrying waters from the Amu Darya from east to west.

Ashgabat is called Aşgabat in Turkmen. Before 1991, the city was usually spelled Ashkhabad in English, a transliteration of the Russian form. It has also been variously spelled Ashkhabat and Ashgabad. From 1919 until 1927, the city was renamed Poltoratsk after a local revolutionary, Pavel Gerasimovich Poltoratskiy.

Although the name literally means - city of love - or - city of devotion - in modern Persian, the name might be modified through folk etymology.

According to estimates of the 2012 Turkmen census the Turkmen form 85% of the city's population. Russians form 7.7% of the population, followed by Armenians (1.5%), Turks (1.1%), Uzbeks (1.1%), and Azeris (1%).

When Ashgabat was under Russian rule, the number of Bahá'ís in the city rose to over 1,000, and a Bahá'í community was established, with its own schools, medical facilities and cemetery. The community elected one of the first Bahá'í local administrative institutions.

In 1908 the Bahá'í community completed the construction of the first Bahá'í House of Worship, sometimes referred to by its Arabic name of masriqu-l- aḏkar where people of all religions may worship God without denominational restrictions.

The building was designed under the guidance of Abdu'l-Baha by Ustad' Ali-Akbar Banna Yazdi who also wrote a history of the Baha'is in Ashgabat.

The House of Worship itself was surrounded by gardens, with four buildings at the four corners of the gardens: a school, a hostel where travelling Bahá'ís were entertained, a small hospital, and a building for groundskeepers.

Under the Soviet policy towards religion, the Bahá'ís, strictly adhering to their principle of obedience to legal government, abandoned these properties in 1928. For the decade from 1938 to 1948, when it was seriously damaged by the earthquake, it was an art gallery. It was demolished in 1963.

After exiting the Soviet Union, the city gained many high-rise residential buildings. Modern construction techniques allow high-rise development with mainly 12 storeys, with relatively good protection against earthquakes.

Primarily consisting of residential towers, the first floor is typically given a shopping area and a service department. Many of the buildings are made of white marble.

The Arch of Neutrality was dismantled and re-erected in its original form in the south of the capital. Turkmenistan Tower, at a height of 211 meters, is the tallest building in the country.

Ashgabat is primarily a government and administrative centre. The business centre of Ashgabat is on the Archabil highway. Construction of several ministries and departments, teaching and research and cultural centres is complete. Development of office buildings and public spaces along the avenue continues.

The principal industries are cotton textiles and metal working. It is a major stop on the Trans-Caspian railway. A large percentage of the employment in Ashgabat is provided by the state institutions; such as the ministries, under secretariats, and other administrative bodies of the Turkmenistan government.

There are also many foreign citizens working as diplomats or clerks in the embassies of their respective countries. Ashgabat lends its name to the Ashgabat agreement, signed by India, Oman, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, for creating an international transport and transit corridor facilitating transportation of goods between Central Asia and the Persian Gulf.

More than 43 large and 128 medium-sized industrial enterprises along with over 1,700 small industrial facilities are located in Ashgabat and its suburbs. The most important are Ashneftemash, Turkmenkabel, Turkmenbashi Textile Complex etc.

Both locals and visitors go to Altyn Asyr Bazaar in Choganly, where many items, including traditional fabrics and hand-woven carpets, can be bought. Modern shopping areas are mostly found in central streets, including the modern Berkarar mall and Paytagt and Aşgabat shopping centers.

The local residents like traditional bazaars: Russian bazaar, Teke bazaar, Daşoguz bazaar, Mir bazaar, Jennet bazaar, etc. The Turkish-owned Yimpas department store closed as of December 2016.

The city is served by the Ashgabat International Airport. Turkmenistan Airlines has its headquarters in the city. Ashgabat offers air service to and from all the major cities of the Turkmenistan, as well as some destinations in Asia and Europe.

Ashgabat is served by the following foreign airlines: Belavia, Lufthansa, Turkish Airlines, S7 Airlines, flydubai, China Southern Airlines and Uzbekistan Airways.

The Trans-Caspian Railway through Turkmenbashi–Balkanabat–Bereket–Ashgabat–Mary–Türkmenabat runs through Ashgabat from east to west. Since 2006 there is also a train line from Ashgabat to the north, the Trans-Karakum Railway. In May 2009 the restoration of the Ashgabat railway station was completed.

In Ashgabat, there are two intercity bus stations, one located near the Teke Bazaar, the second at the old airport. There are daily buses to Archman, Dashoguz and Turkmenabat. The new International Passenger Bus Terminal of Ashgabat was inaugurated on September 5, 2014.

Public transport in the city consists mainly of buses. More than 60 bus lines cover a total range of more than 2,230 kilometres (1,386 miles) with 700 buses running on urban routes. Currently the city primarily uses Mercedes-Benz and Hyundai buses.

Bus timetables and detailed schematic map of the route are at every stop. Distances between stops are about 300–500 meters. From October 19, 1964 to December 31, 2011 the city also had the Ashgabat trolleybus system. At the beginning of the twentieth century narrow-gauge railway operated by steam-power, connecting the city with the suburbs Firyuza.

On 18 October 2006, the Ashgabat Cable Car opened, connecting the city with the foothills of the Kopetdag.

Ashgabat Monorail commenced service in 2016, becoming the first monorail in the Central Asia region. It circulates exclusively on the territory of the Olympic Village which in Turkmen is Olimpiya şaherçesi.

In January 2018, it was reported that black cars had been impounded for weeks in Ashgabat, a result of President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov's conviction that black cars bring bad luck.

Museums include the Turkmen Fine Arts Museum and Turkmen Carpet Museum, noted for their impressive collection of woven carpets as well as a Turkmen history museum and the Ashgabat National Museum of History, which displays artifacts dating back to the Parthian and Persian civilizations.
Golden Statue of Saparmurat Niyazov
The Academy of Sciences of Turkmenistan is an important institute of higher learning. Ashgabat was also home to the Arch of Neutrality, a 75 m (250 ft) tall tripod crowned by a golden statue of late president Saparmurat Niyazov also known as Turkmenbashi, or leader of all Turkmen.

The 15 m (50 ft) high statue, which rotated in order to always face the sun during daylight hours, was removed on August 26, 2010 after Niyazov’s successor, current President Berdimuhamedov, made it clear earlier in the year that the statue was going to be taken out of Ashgabat’s parliament square.

In 2011 a Monument to the Constitution was built, its total height of 185 m (607 ft) makes it the second tallest building in Turkmenistan.

Alem Cultural and Entertainment Center was recognised by Guinness World Records as the world's tallest Ferris wheel in an enclosed space.The Ashgabat Flagpole is the fourth tallest free-standing flagpole in the world, standing at 436 ft (133 m) tall.
Ashgabat Fountain (Pool and Fountain Complex)
The Ashgabat Fountain has the world's greatest number of fountain pools in a public place. Ashgabat also features Turkmenistan Tower which is the tallest tower in Turkmenistan, the decorative octagonal Star of Oguzkhan is recognized as the world's largest architectural image of the star and entered in the Guinness World Records.

- Oguzkhan Presidential Palace, the official presidential headquarters.

- Ruhyyet Palace, a place for official state events, forums, meetings, inaugurations.

- Wedding Palace, is a civil registry building.

- Main Drama Theatre

- Mollanepes Turkmen Drama Theater

- Alp Arslan Turkmen National Theatre of Youth

- Turkmen State Puppet Theater

- Pushkin State Russian Drama Theatre

- Turkmen State Circus

- Watan Theatre

Ashgabat has many parks and open spaces, mainly established in the early years of the Independence and well maintained and expanded thereafter. The most important of these parks are: the Botanical Garden, Guneş, Turkmen-Turkish friendship, Independence. The oldest city park, Ashgabat, was founded in 1887 and is colloquially known as First Park.

In the center of Ashgabat is the Inspiration Alley, an art-park complex which is a favorite place for many locals. The amusement park World of Turkmenbashi Tales is a local equivalent to Disneyland.

Squares: 10 Years of Turkmenistan Independence, Magtymguly, Eternal Flame, Zelili, Chyrchyk, Garashsyzlyk, March 8, Gerogly, Dolphin, 15 years of Independence, Ruhyyet, 10 yyl Abadançylyk.

Halk Hakydasy Memorial Complex was opened in 2014 in remembrance of those killed in the Battle of Geok Tepe in 1881, during World War II, and to commemorate of the victims of the 1948 Ashgabat earthquake. It is located in the southwestern part of the city on Bekrewe koçesi.

Ashgabat has four cinemas. In 2011, Aşgabat Cinema, the first 3-D cinema in Turkmenistan, opened in Ashgabat. The Watan and Turkmenistan theaters were reconstructed. Another cinema is located in the Berkarar Mall.

Artogrul Gazy Mosque, a gift from Turkey, was inaugurated in 1998 and resembles the Blue Mosque in Istanbul.

Mosque in Keshi district

Mosque in the 8th Microdistrict

Iranian mosque

Saint Alexander Nevsky Church founded in 1882, dedicated in 1900.

Church of Saint Nicholas the Miracle-Worker

House of Prayer of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ

Chapel of the Transfiguration, Ashgabat

The main sporting venues in Ashgabat are the Olympic Stadium, Ashgabat Stadium, the National Olympic ice rink, Sports complex for winter sports and the Olympic water sports complex.

Ashgabat was chosen as the host city of the V Asian Indoor Games and Martial Arts, and was also the first city in Central Asia to host the Asian Indoor Games. Between 2010 and 2017 an Olympic Village was built south of the city center, at a cost of $5 billion.

The city's professional football clubs are Altyn Asyr, FC Ashgabat, HTTU Aşgabat and FC Hazyna play in the Yokary Liga, the top league of Turkmenistan.

Photography control is taken very seriously. You will encounter many, many security guards and policemen with a strong opinion about how to behave and not behave in the capital. Don't take pictures of the presidential compound or military complexes, a large barracks is right next to the palace.

Avoid areas with roadblocks or where it seems like senior officials may be present. Most other buildings are generally okay, although this could change at any time. Outside of the monuments, best to snap a quick picture and move on.

While large chunks of land in the city are taken up by the dreams of independent Turkmenistan's two presidents, pockets of an older, simpler life survive.

Areas of the city with small apartment buildings and quiet neighborhood restaurants can be found, sometimes just off to the side of these large buildings. Head to the outskirts and country Turkmen life appears with surprising rapidity.

Ashgabat is served by the brand-new Oguz Han International Airport. Taxi drivers will want 20 manat for the short trip into town; 10 manat is a more reasonable price.

The main operator is the international carrier Turkmenistan Airlines, which operates international flights from Abu Dhabi/United Arab Emirates on Fri and Sun, from Almaty/Kazakhstan on Sat, from Amritsar/India on Tue, Wed, Fri, Sat and Sun, from Birmingham/United Kingdom on Thu, Fri and Sun.

From Delhi/India on Sat and Sun, from Dubai/United Arab Emirates on Tue, from Frankfurt/Germany on Tue, Sat and Sun, from Istanbul/Turkey on Mon, Tue, Wed and Sat, from Kiev/Ukraine on Sat, from London/United Kingdom on Tue and Sat, from Moscow/Russia from Mon to Sun and from Tashkent/Uzbekistan on Tue.

From Bangkok/Thailand, 4 times a week, from Istanbul/Turkey, 12 times a week, from Delhi, 3 times a week, from St. Petersburg/Russia, 2 times a week. International flights are operated by B-737 or B-757 aircraft.

Domestic destinations include Dashogus - 6 flights per day, Mary - 3 flights per day, Turkmenabat - 5 flights per day and Turkmenbashi - 3 flights per day. Domestic flights are very cheap due to subsidies.

Other airlines include FlyDubai to Dubai - 5 times a week, Lufthansa to Frankfurt/Germany, 4 times a week - via Baku/Azerbaijan, Turkish Airlines toIstanbul/Turkey - twice a day, and S7 Airlines to Moscow - 5 times per week.

Turkmendemiryollari or Turkmenistan Zeleznice runs trains to Ashgabat from Turkmenbashi and Turkmenabad via Mary.

Trains leave Turkmenbashi every second day at 7.30 pm and arrive in Ashgabat at 5.20 am next morning or daily at 4.05 pm, arriving in Ashgabat at 5.50 am next morning.

Trains leave Turkmenabad at 6 pm and Mary at 0.25 am daily and arrive in Ashgabat at 8.20 am next morning, Another train leaves Turkmenabad at 9.55 pm and and Mary at 2.50 am every second day, arriving in Ashgabat at 9.35 am next morning.

There is a day train leaving Turkmenabad at 4.20 am and Mary at 10.23 am, arriving in Ashgabat at 6.35 pm.

Distances to Ashgabat: Almaty in Kazakhstan 2120 km, Bishkek in Kyrgyztan 1870 km, Tashkent in Uzbekistan 1290 km, Samarkand in Uzbekistan 1000 km, Shakrisabz in Uzbekistan 1100 km, Turkmenabad 590 km, Mary 350 km, Mashhad in Iran 270 km, Dashgovuz 650 km,

Unofficial taxis are everywhere. Just stick out your right arm, and see who stops.

The bus system in Ashgbat is fairly good, and is only about 0.4 manat per person. Pay when you get off the bus. It is easiest to give the driver 1 manat and let him give you change, instead of trying to figure out exact fare and you probably will not have coins, anyways, since they are worth so little.

There are white marble bus stops many with shade and some with air conditioning all through the town. Some of the bus stations have route maps at the stations.

The bus is a good option if you are on the outskirts of town e.g., the giant indoor Ferris wheel at Alem Cultural and Entertainment Center or the Palace of Knowledge and no taxis stop. Take any bus in the direction toward town, and get off when you get closer to a busy city street and take a taxi to wherever you are going.

Nissa, 15 km West of Ashgabat, settlement dating back to the 2nd cent BC

Geok Depe, 50 km West of Ashgabat, site of the final battle between troups of Turmen and tsarist troops in 1881/84, Saparmurat Hags Mosque, erected by President Turkmenbashi

Bakharden, 100 km West of Ashgabat, near the Kopet Dag mountains, cave with the Kow Ata Lake with hot thermal water, however, smelling of sulphur, a favorite place for excursion for people of Ashgabat at weekends.

Nokhur, 150 km from Ashgabar in South Western Turkmenistan in the valleys of the Kopet Dag mountains. The people of Nokhur claim to be direct descendants of Macedonian warriors of Alexander the Great's times,

Anau, 15 km South East of Ashgabat.

Altyn Depe is a settlement of the Eneolithic and Bronze Ages. It has been extensively excavated during the Soviet period. The settlement has specialised potter's quarters, evidence of a differentiation of the living quarters according to the wealth of their inhabitants and a monumental cult complex.

During excavations a small golden head of a wolf and a bull were found. According to the Russian archaeologist V.M.Masson, the cult complex was dedicated to the Moon Good as in Mesopotamia. The site was abandonned in the middle of the second millenium BC.

White marble. The biggest attraction in Ashagbat is the many white marble buildings. Many of these are government ministries and can't be entered, so a tour around the city is a great way to take it in. Bus Number 20 is a good bet. It passes a number of buildings before turning around in the desert outside the city. 20 tenne.

Turkmenbashi Cableway, Kopet Dag - south of the National Museum. 9am to 10pm. Cable car, opened in 2006, climbing up to 1290 meters, offering spectacular views over the city with the desert in the background. Fully operational and 2 manat per person in July 2016. Cafe at the top had only drinks and ice cream in July 2016. $10.

Tolkuchka Bazaar, 8 km north of Ashgabad, past the airport. Sat, Sun 8am to 2pm. one of Central Asia's most colourful bazaars.

National Museum, Archabil sayoli 30 in front of the Kopet Dag. 9am to 5pm. An interesting, if very expensive museum. For foreign visitors, Hall 1's presentation of post-independent Turkmenistan is probably the most interest. The delusions of absolute power are full effect in the strange gifts and terrible photoshopped images.

Elsewhere more serious work is presented on Turkmenistan's past: Hall 2 focuses on Bronze Age artifacts while Hall 3 shows items taken from the Nissa site just outside of Ashgabat. Hall 4 shows a medieval model of Merv, along with exhibits on Konye Urgench and Anau. Hall 5 and 6 show ancient weapons and jewelry, while a huge carpet dominates Hall 7. $10 per section or $30 for the whole museum.

Museum of Fine Arts, west of the Palace of Justice. Wed to Mon 9am to 6pm. The Central Hall has a large picture of President Niyazov Abundance of the Harvest. In the Independence Hall the heroic figures of the nation - Oguz Han, Togrul Beg, Alp Arslan and the poet Seydi are shown.

The museum also contains a reconstruction of the dragen freeze of the mosque of Arnau and exhibitions of Turkmen paitings before and after 1950. The first floor is devoted to Russian paintings from the 19th century and to European paintings, including minor works by Tiepolo and Poussin. US$ 10.

Turkmen Carpet Museum, 5 Georogly kocesi. Mon to Fri 10am to 1pm., 2 to 6 pm,. The museum houses antique carpets of the 18th and 19th centuries and modern carpets from all parts of the country. There is a nearly 200 square meters carpet which was intended as curtain of the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, but proved too heavy.

The pride of the museum is the largest hand-woven carpet in the world, as certified by the Guinness Book of Records. It covers 300 square meters and was woven by 40 carpet makers on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of Turkmenistan's independence. $20/72TMT.

Turkmenistan Independence Park, take bus 16 or 34 from the city center. The Park covers an area 2 km long and 1 km wide. It contains monuments of famous people of Turkmen history: the founder of the Seljuk dynastySeljuk Beg, the founder of the Turkmen people Oguz Han, the Turkmen poet Magtymguly, the Seljuk leader Sultan Sanjar, the Turkmen warrior Georoglythe Seljuk rulers Alp Arslan and Malik Shah.

The 18th century leader of the Ahal Tekkes Keymir Kor, the poets Zelilli and Sydi, the leader of the White Sheep confederation Uzyn Hasan, the father of the founder of the Ottoman Empire Ertogul Gazy, the Turkmen commander and poet Bairam Han, the poets Molianepes and Mataji, the Turkmen leader Gara Yusup, the Seljuk ruler Togrul Beg, the spiritual leader Gorkut Ata and the poet Kemine.

Ashgabat Flagpole, near the National Museum. Erected in 2008, this large flag is now the fourth-largest in the world. If slightly smaller than the ones present in Baku, Pyongyang and Dushanbe, the 133 meter structure is still impressive. Free.

Museum of Turkmen National Values. 9am to 12,30 pm, 2 to 5,30 pm, daily. In the first floor, the Museum houses displays of silver jewelry for women and horses, and replicas of the golden bull- and wolf-head sculptures from Altyn Depe. $10.

Alem Cultural and Entertainment Center with giant Indoor Ferris Wheel. Fri-Sun Only. This is a beautiful building and has the world record for the largest indoor Ferris wheel. There are also coin-operated machines and bumper cars inside.

Alem_Cultural_and_Entertainment_Center about 5 manat per person.

World of Turkmenbashi Tales. This has some neat animatronics and shows of Turkmen fairy tales inside, as well as various amusement park rides bumper cars, flying carpet, horse race, Disney knock-offs outside.

World of Turkmenbashi Tales 0.60 manat per ride ticket - 6 manat per person will let you see everything.

Palace of Knowledge or Turkmenbashi Museum, Across from south side of Independence Monument. There is a library, a threate, and the Turkmenbashi Museum, which seems to be collection of the gifts to, and souvenirs and other knick-knacks of Turkmenbashi.

The building, both inside and out, is beautiful. Some of the exhibits are very ornate. 10 USD or 35 manat per foreigner and cheaper for Turkmen.

Mollanepes Drama Theatre, Magtymguly sayoli 79.

Magtymguly Theatre, Shevchenko kocesi. Fri to Sun 7pm. Turkmen musical performances.

Pushkin Russian Theatre, Magtymguly sayoli 142.

All theatres seem to be closed in the summer, perhaps for vacation.

Shopping

Tolkuchka Bazaar: 8 km north of Ashgabad, past the airport, Sat, Sun 8am to 2pm, also Thu morning on a smaller scale. Buy a telpek or sheepskin for US$ 10 to 15, a khalat - red and yellow striped robe for men for US$ 15 or a typical red carpet for US$ 150 to 250.

Be aware that you also need an export certificate, which you can get at the expert commission behind the Carpet Museum, Gorogly kocesi 5.
Carpet Shop, Gorogly kocesi 5, east of the Carpet Museum, run by the government.

Gulistan market is a Russian bazaar, ul. M. Kosaev opposite Grand Turkmen Hotel. 9 a.m. to dusk. A traditional Central Asian bazaar stocked with fruit, vegetables, handicrafts and cheap imported clothing. Despite photos seen online of foreign dignitaries visiting, photos are strongly discouraged.

There are several shops which sell souvenirs, such as wool hats. Ask shopkeepers here to change money at the unofficial rate.

Berkarar Mall, Ataturk koçesi. 9-23. This is the place to go for a big western-style mall now that Yimpas is closed. Large grocery store on ground floor, food court on 3rd with plenty of choices. Several coffee shops throughout mall.

Teke Bazaar. Very similar to the Russian Bazaar but slightly larger.

Wine & Dine

Asuda Nusay, Alishera Navoi Kocesi 54a. speciality: sturgeon from the Caspian Sea.

Altyn Jam, Magtymgily sayoli 101, ☎ 396850. European dishes and sweets.

Merdem, Oguzhan St. 1/7.

Euphoria, O.Kulieva str. 33, First Floor.

Yildiz hotel has an excellent bar and restaurant on the top floor.

Berkerar shopping centre third floor has a variety of fast food outlets and more expensive and better quality sit down with a knife and fork type restaurants. There is also an excellent children's play area for your little ones to have fun and give you some time to eat in peace.

Candybil shopping center has a super Russian restaurant around the back and accessed from the outside. Very pricey but very good and the food can be grilled in front of you on a hazel nut shell BBQ.

Restaurantino is Italian themed and very tasty. located next to the American embassy and is probably your best mix of price and quality.

British Pub. A decent water hole with pool table, plenty of ales, occasional live music and some half decent food.

City Pub. Just across the road from British pub and much smaller.

Yunuz. Smart and upmarket bar with live music DJs and a Salsa night each Thursday.

Gunes/Zip. 10-22:30. Great local place to grab beer & food. Very cheap. Has live singing at night, outdoor seating & dance floor.

Grand Turkmen Hotel Night Club - Enter through a door in the parking lot behind the Grand Turkmen Hotel. There will be several bouncers around the entrance. Tell them that you are going to the disco. Walk through tennis court and next to pool to an entrance at the back of the hotel building.

The nightclub is located in the basement. It is open around 9 pm to 3 am. The club and dance floor gets packed Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night after around 11 pm. According to patrons, it is the only club open after 11 pm in the city. They play a variety of music, from Russian techno to salsa and reggae, to American music.

Do not expect waitresses to speak English, but they will try to communicate with you, and you can point at the drinks that you want. As in many Russian-style discos, you can buy either a bottle or a shot of vodka. Vodka is about 5 manat per 50 gram (50 mL) shot. Cokes and other mixers are usually more expensive than the vodka.

Accomodation in Ashgabat

Ashgabat has next to no acceptable budget options, very few mid-range options and tons of space on the top end. In response the government is building even more luxury accommodation. If coming on an organized trip or a business trip, consider asking your operator to upgrade your hotel.

Excess demand may mean a far better hotel for not much more money as extra space is sold off for cheap.

Hotel Nissa, Atabaeva Street, 18B, email: . Apparently owned by family of Saparmurat Niyazov, this is a four-star hotel with air conditioning, swimming pool, pool bar, sauna, Turkish sauna, gym, jacuzzi. This is about the best quality hotel you'll find in Ashgabat, think somewhat run-down and a bit overpriced for its features, about a 10 minute walk from the war memorial and book shop.

The restaurant has decent Italian food. Expect to come across lots of foreign workers, and women of dubious persuasion at the hotel bar. Some English is, however, spoken.

Yyldyz Hotel, Str. 2002/5 17 Bagtyyarlyk. A new hotel in a hill overlooking Ashgabat. With a sail design that brings to mind the Burj Al Arab in Dubai, the oversized hotel has three restaurants, including ones specializing in Chinese and Italian food, three bars, including one of the roof, spa facilities and a massive pool.

The hotel is an attraction in its own right- the experience here is analogous to any luxury hotel in Asia.

Oguzkent Hotel, Bitarap Turkmenistan Avenue. No longer a Sofitel but still the best hotel in Ashgabat. Location is right next to the Presidential Palace, so close to everything. Continental restaurant on the top floor has nice views, it's possible to snap photos of many buildings not allowed on the ground, while the Turkish restaurant has quality food at reasonable prices.

Sauna, pool, gym, guides and tour services available. Popular with foreign guests and delegations, with good reason. $150-300.

Hotel President.

Hotel Grand Turkmen, ul. Georogly 7. As of July 2016, internet was good 2/3 of the time and poor 1/3 of the time. Wi-Fi is free in the hotel for guests. Some websites e.g., Lonely Planet may be blocked.

Hotel Ak Altyn, Magtumguly ave 141/1. $75 per night, Visa accepted but MasterCard is not. An older option that looks a bit scary from the outside but from the inside is a big better. Once the crown-jewel of independent Turkmenistan but ambitions have gotten bigger.

Nice pool bar and shashlik area in the back. German and British embassies are inside so there's plenty of security. Wi-Fi is improving but still not great. About $90 for a double.

Hotel Azatlyk.

Hotel Ahal.

Hotel Nebitchi.

Syyahat Hotel, A little out of the way, West on Gorogly - West on Gorogly Kochesi. This is a big, uncharasmatic hotel with rooms that are a bit shabby, but a good budget option all the same. A basic breakfast is included in the price. Bus no. 10 goes to the centre. dorm $10, single $30, double $50.

The Internet situation in Turkmenistan is bad, by far the worst in Central Asia but not as bad as it was in the recent past. There are some Internet cafes around town that have access from around 6 TMT an hour.

High speed mobile Internet is available, but short-term visitors will find it hard to complete the necessary paperwork. Popular Apps like WhatsApp, Facebook and Youtube are blocked.

Wi-Fi is available in most hotel lobbies regardless if you are staying there and the Yimpas Shopping Center. The American government runs a Public Information Center in a different building than the embassy with free, unblocked Internet. The Wi-Fi unfortunately is quite slow but desktop terminals are available.

Airlines

Lufthansa.

Turkish Airlines, Magtymguly sayoli 73.

Turkmenistan Airlines, Magtymguly sayoli, International Ticket Office.

S7 Airlines, Gorogly 50.

Belavia, Govshudova (2028) street 50/2.

Emergencies
Dial 01 for the fire brigade, 02 for police, 03 for ambulance. Be aware that the operators will speak Turkmen and Russian only.

Embassies and Consulates
Afghanistan, Garashsyzlyk köcesi, Berzengi. Mon to Fri 9am to 5pm.

Armenia, Ingenernaya kocesi 37. Mon to Fri 10-12 am.

Azerbaijan, 2062 kocesi 44. Mon to Fri 9am to 1pm, 2 to 6 pm.

Belarus, Maxim Gorki kocesi 81. Tue to Fri 3 to 6 pm.

China, Kuvvat Hotel, Berzengi. Tue to Fri 3 to 6 pm.

France, Ak ALtyn Hotel, third floor. Mon to Fri 9am to 1pm, 3 to 5pm.

Georgia, Azadi köcesi 139a. Mon to Fri 9am to 6pm.

Germany, Al Alty Hotel, first floor, Magtumguly Avenue. Mon to Fri 9 to 12 am.

India, Emeryal Business Center, 1 Yunus Emre kocesi, mir 2/1.

Iran, Tehran kocesi 3. Mon to Fri 8.30 to 12 am.

Japan, Paytagi Offic Building, Parahat District.

Kazakhstan, Garaszylik sayoli 11-13, International Ustay Compound, Berzengi. Tue, Thu and Fri 9 to 12am, 5 to 6 pm.

Kyrgyzstan, Görogly kocesi 14. Mon to Fri 10 to 12 am, 4 to 6 pm.

Netherlands, Tehran kocesi 17. Mon to Fri 9am to 6pm.

Pakistan, Garashszlyk kocesi 4/1. Mon to Fri 9-12 am.

Romania, K.Burunov kocesi 43A.

Russia, Turkmenbashi sayoli 11.

Saudi Arabia, Emperyal Business Center, Yunus Emre kocesi 1.

South Korea. Mon to Fri 9am to 5pm.

Tajikistan, Gorgoly kocesi 14. Mon to Fri 9am to 1pm, 3 to 5 pm.

Turkey, Shevchenko kocesi 9.

Ukraine, Azadi kocesi 49.

United Arab Emirates, Kalifa center, Turkembashi sayoli 124.

United Kingdom, Ak Altyn Hotel third floor. Mon to Fri 9am to 5pm.

United States.

Uzbekistan, Turkmenbashy sayoli 124.

Vatican, 20A Görogly st. Russian Catholic Mass at 10 am on Sundays, English Catholic Mass at 6 pm on Sundays.

Medical Treatment

Central Hospital, Emre kocesi 1. Foreigners have to pay for their medical treatment.

International Medical Center, Berzegi.

Lechebnii Hospital, Shevchenko sayoli.

Dr.Arslan Nepesow, Turkembashi köcesi 124.

SMST - State Migration Service of Turkmenistan, Azady koçesi 63, 9 to 12 am, 2 to 5 pm. All persons entering Turkmenistan on a tourist or business visa have to register within three working days.

You need two passport photos and your entry card. In most cases the tour operator that invited you will organize this for you. Persons holding transit visas are not required to register.

Turkmenistan Airlines operates international flights to Abu Dhabi/United Arab Emirates on Fri and Sun, to Almaty/Kazakhstan on Sat, to Amritsar/India on Tue, Wed, Fri, Sat and Sun, to Birmingham/United Kingdom on Thu, Fri and Sun, to Delhi/India on Sat and Sun.

To Dubai/United Arab Emirates on Tue, to Frankfurt/Germany on Tue, Sat and Sun, to Istanbul/Turkey on Mon, Tue, Wed and Sat, to Kiev/Ukraine on Sat, to London/United Kingdom on Tue and Sat, to Moscow/Russia from Mon to Sat and to Tashkent/Uzbekistan on Tue, Ankara, Riga, Saint Petersburg, Minsk, Paris, Kuala Lumpur International flights are operated by B-737, B-757 or B-777 aircraft.

Turkmenistan Airlines offers domestic flights to Dashogus - 6 flights per day, Mary - 3 flights per day, Turkmenabat - 5 flights per day and Turkmenbashi - 3 flights per day, Balkanabat.

Flydubai operates flight to Dubai/UAE.

There is one flight to Minsk/Belarus, operated by Belavia.

Lufthansa operates flight to Frankfurt/Germany on Tue, Fri and Sat via Baku/Azerbaijan.

Turkish Airlines has flights to Istanbul/Turkey on Thu, Sat and Mon morning.

China Southern Airlines operates flight to Urumqi/China.

S7 Airlines operates flights to Moscow/Russia.

Iran - Take a taxi to the border, which is about 7km south of the city, so $10 should be enough to offer. After going through the first checkpoint its a 25 minute drive across nice landscape in a shared minibus, for which they charge a very steep 40 Manat/ $14 approx per person. This is the price for foreigners.

After entering into Iran, take the frequent bus to Bajgiran village 2km down the road at 10,000 rial, from where you can find a taxi to take you to Quchan 70km away at 250,000 - 300,000 rial / $8-10.

If continuing to Mashhad just say Mashhad autobus and they should take you to the correct location. The taxis leaving from the border are more expensive than the village, so its worth the short journey.


Tourism Observer

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