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INTRODUCING TURKMENISTAN
Local Name: Türkmenistan
Other Name(s): Turkmenia
Turkmenistan is situated in the very heart of Central Asia, between the Caspian Sea in the west and the great Amu Darya in the east; from Aral Sea coastal steppes in the north to the Kopet Dag mountain range to the south. Turkmenistan is an independent state, founded in 1991 after the disintegration of the USSR; five years later it attained a unique political status, which was recognized by the United Nations Organization. The founder of the state and former National leader of Turkmenistan, President Saparmurat Turkmenbashy, has clearly specified the character of his country and its place in the sophisticated geopolitical space with a broad formulation of "permanent neutrality".

Historically this was an area dominated by political forces scuffling across the territory. The armies of Alexander, the Roman, Persian and Arab empires and the hordes of Ghengis Khan all vied for control, while the wild nomadic horsemen pursued their tribal way of life. For centuries unknown and unmapped, Turkmenistan was finally incorporated into the Russian empire. Now the country enjoys independence and neutral status, fiercely proud of its culture and traditions.

From desert oases and mountain aeries, on the songs of the mystic Bakhshy troubadors come the treasures of Turkmenistan. Revel in its bustling bazaars, redolent with spices and tradition. Enjoy the pilav rice dishes, herb-filled pastries, Chorek bread and even camel’s milk with local families. Visit workshops and watch as skilled craftsmen and women produce luxurious silks and fabulous embroidery.

Experience the thrill of a horse race where native Akhaltekin horses have always been attributed magical qualities. Noble and loyal and decorated with silver ornaments, they were said to fly between the heavens and the earth.

See the whole city of Ashgabat at your feet from the top of the Arch of Neutrality. This capital city sits at the edge of the Karakum desert. Visit the carpet museum there and its displays of weaving and design. Once every woman knew how to weave carpets, while famous telpek is still men’s work. This is the large furry hat worn by men, summer and winter. An entire section of the city bazaar is devoted to traditional Turkmen handicrafts including Kheteni silk, and Zergar silver jewelry. Once you’ve tried your hand at bargaining with the vendors, go modern – there’s even a casino in Ashgabat!

Breathe in 5000 years of civilization at archaeological sites like Kunya-Urgench, Dekhistan, Merv and Old Nissa. Just outside of Ashgabat are the ruins of the ancient fortress complex and the Sunday bazaar of Old Nissa. This was the capital of the Parthian kings for 600 years, rivaling even Rome itself.

From the walls and mosques of historical Merv, caravans started towards Iran and Turkey. Once known as the “Queen of Cities”, its ruins stand witness to history. Turkmenistan has considerable natural beauty as well, and today’s traveler can enjoy treks in stunning, pristine locations such as the canyons of the Kugitang mountains, where dinosaurs left their footprints and the Karakal nature preserve – one of the last homes of the snow leopard. Dive into the hot springs underwater lake of Kow-Ata or adventure off-road in the Karakum with traditional 4-wheel drive – the Bactrian camel. Cross the boundless steppe and cliffs that give way to the inhospitable salt marshes of the Kaplankyr Reserve to reach the welcome of the Damla Oasis. Swim with the seals or relax on the shores of the glittering Caspian sea.