On the 15th of June at 2 AM TotalAdventure landed in Türkmenbaşy International Airport in Ashgabat Turkmenistan after a 5 hour flight from Istanbul. We were met by our guide and driver after we passed through very rigorous immigration procedures.
Turkmenistan is one of the world’s most difficult countries to visit. In order to be admitted one must travel with a guide . at all times while in the country, with very few exceptions. The first step is to contact a guide and plan an itinerary. The guide service then applies for a letter of invitation on behalf of the client. When ( and if ) the letter is granted it is sent by email to the traveler. We presented the above letter at customs and paid US $99 for each visa to be affixed in our passports. We then underwent fingerprint scans, iris scans and questioning, but no bag check. Although there are over 100 gates at the airport, we were the only plane on the ground ! Turlmenistan receives less than 7000 tourists per year.
Ashgabat is known as the White City, a monument to Saparmurat Niyazov the first leader of Turkmenistan. Assuming power upon the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. he ruled with an iron hand, and called himself Turkmenbashi, ” Father of All Turkmen ” Billons of dollars from the nation’s huge gas reserves were used to build extravagant monuments and palatial government buildings. To this day all cars in the city have to be white. Turkmenbashi named moths of the year after himself and other family members. Seeking distance from Russia, ballet and opera were banned, along with dogs.
Turkmenbashi even rewrote the Koran ( with the help of ghost writers as he was not very literate) into his own vision, glorifying Turkmen nationals and his place in their leadership. It was required reading for everyone . In order to receive a driver’s license ,certain passages had to be . memorized.
Turkmenbashi died in 2006 and was replaced by a former dentist Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow. He is very popular, appearing in all the newspapers every morning and on TV nonstop. Besides being a benevolent leader, he is a man of many talents, including race car driving, DJ, singer, author of many scientific journals, medical leader and expert horseman.
Turkmenistan is also keen on world records. Here, we have the world’s largest indoor ferris wheel !
Another Space Age Monument to the Supreme Leader. Turkmenbashi on the top rotating towards the sun.
Under A Stunning White Monument.
National TV Tower . Gurbanguly 24/7 !
Tuerkemnbashi Clock. His golden statue turns in the direction of the sun as it moves across the sky.
Turkmenbashi Mosque. $100 million to . build, with his inscriptions, rather than the Koran. Considered sacreligious , no one attends.
Ashgabat is located 10 miles north of the Iran border. We took a cable car up the Kopet Dag mountains into a No-Man’s land separating Turkmenistan and Iran. With a close up shot , we present an Iranian soldier on guard at his watchtower in Iranian territory. At that very moment . John Bolton was beating the war drums back in Washington.
An ancient Persian settlement on the Iran border.
The next day we drove North into the KaraKum Desert.
Our destination was Darvaza Gas Crater. In 1970, the Soviets were drilling for oil in a gas field and the entire rig collapsed into the ground, under which there is a virtually unlimited supply of gas. In essence Darvaza is a man made volcano.
The crater is visible from space. Please see the video above to watch the flames.
The Gateway To Hell.
Appetizers in the Desert. Caspian Sea Beluga Caviar , unobtainable in most countries, went for $ 40 for about a third of a pound !