Weird weird world of Turkmenistan

Trip Start May 28, 2006
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Trip End May 17, 2007


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Flag of Turkmenistan  ,
Friday, June 30, 2006

Turkmenistan is run by a guy that has clearly taken his totalitarian role to heart. "Turkmenbashi" (or "Great Leader of the Turkmen") as he has renamed himself is *everywhere* in this country, with large pictures on every building and ubiquitous quotes from his book, the Ruhnama.








His favourate slogan "Halk, Watan, Turkmenbashi" ("People, Country, Me") is even more prominent. Best of all is a 12 metre high, shiny gold statue of himself he's built in the centre of Ashgabat on top of the "Arch of Neutrality" - that constantly rotates so that he is always facing the sun...

All citizens are required to take his book to heart (you have to pass an exam on it to get into university, enter the civil service, even to get a driving license), the secret police's network is apparently extensive, and Ashgabat is a very odd place as he constantly remodels it.

We were warned that the authorities keep a close eye on foreigners, bugging hotel rooms and restaurants etc., and we were followed by a not-so-subtle secret policeman (accompanied by much tying and re-tying of invisible shoe-laces on his flip-flops!), as well as being often quickly moved on when we got our camera out!

All in a very different place to visit. We've really enjoyed it though, despite the disturbing authoritarianism; Ashgabat is very odd but is an intriguing place, and wild-camel spotting on the drive through the desert provided hours of fun, amazing scenery and the bazaar in Turkmenbashi were all highlights.
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