Even if Turkmenistan hardly exists in the Central European perception, the landlocked country bordering Iran, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and the Caspian Sea is an interesting country – scenic, cultural and historical – and an opportunity for an encounter with Central Asia. Turkmenistan, often referred to as Turkmenia, is an Islamic country… but it is also from the 150 years in which it was occupied by Russia and the USSR. embossed. Turkmenistan’s landscape is dominated by 80% of the total area, which is made up of sandy and scree deserts. In addition to the desert, there are also the Kopetdag Mountains towards the Iranian border and the Gissar Mountains to the east, as well as plateaus in the far west and northwest, isolated forest areas, several rivers and the Karabugas Gulf, which is a lagoon of the Caspian Sea. There, in the sea, the otherwise species-poor country is also a bit more diverse, because the inland water is not only a habitat for various fish species, but also for turtles and seals. Living space for the population in Turkmenistan is primarily the southern region… and the oases within the Karakum desert. Major cities in which the country’s culture can be discovered include the capital Ashkhabad, Mary and Turkmenabat. Whereby Ashchabad, which was rebuilt after an earthquake in 1949, shows the country with a modern, lively metropolis. Further culture in Turkmenistan in the ruined cities of Nisa and Merw, in Geok-Tepe with one of the most impressive mosques in the country, in Turkmenbaschi on the Caspian Sea.
Carpet bazaar on the Silk Road
Anyone interested in carpets and the art of carpet knotting will find their El Dorado at the Tolkuchka Carpet Bazaar. The market near Ashgabat, the former pearl on the Silk Road, is legendary. In general, the capital of Turkmenistan is known as a center of handicrafts. But the carpets play a very special role here. Their importance is so great that a few years ago a carpet museum was even built, in which the largest carpet in the world can be admired, which has found its way into the Guinness Book of Records.
The largest market in Central Asia
The Tolkuchka Bazaar is undoubtedly one of the largest and most colorful markets in all of Central Asia. Here you can spend hours and let the dealers show you one knotted work of art after another. Of course he would like to sell one of these beautiful specimens. But he’s not upset if it doesn’t work out, but enjoys chatting with strangers who are interested in the carpets. These hand-knotted treasures tell the eventful history of the country in their patterns.
Strict export regulations
It is also not that easy to buy a rug in Turkmenistan. Because the export regulations are strict. Carpets that are more than 80 years old are not allowed to be carried out at all. For all others, an export license must be applied for. The Carpet Museum is responsible for this. Processing time can take several days and the price per square meter is around two dollars.
In the middle of the Karakum desert in Central Asia, in the little-known country of Turkmenistan, are the remains of the former oasis city of Merw. Its location, directly on the famous Silk Road, made it a splendid metropolis with more than 100,000 inhabitants in ancient times. The ruins of the former cosmopolitan city are among the best-preserved places on the legendary trade route and are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visiting the huge field of ruins is one of the highlights of a trip to Turkmenistan.
The oasis city on the Silk Road
Because the river Murghab fed the oasis with water, the place was already settled in the Neolithic Age. However, the exact founding date of the city is not known. Due to its location directly on the Silk Road, Merw soon became the economic and intellectual center of Central Asia and flourished between the 11th and 12th centuries.
In 1221 the trading stronghold was cruelly lost during the siege and conquest by the Mongols. With more than a million people killed, this campaign went down as one of the bloodiest in history.
Since Merw was built entirely from clay, the remains of the city have been preserved to this day. The ruins are spread over an area of approximately 70 km². A vastness that can be explained by the fact that the city was destroyed several times in the course of its history and rebuilt elsewhere.
The most beautiful buildings in Merw
One of the most interesting sights of the oasis city is the mausoleum of Sultan Dar-al-Akhir, which dates back to 1140 AD. The imposing building is 40 meters high and can be seen from afar. Its distinctive dome was made from two thin brick shells that were applied one on top of the other.
Also worth seeing are the ruins of the Kala-Kyz fortress from the 6th to 7th centuries as well as the Buddhist monasteries, Christian temples and magnificent mosques that tell of the different cultural influences.
The world cultural heritage is the destination of many study trips, because nowhere is the history and culture of the country of Turkmenistan more alive than in the wasteland of the gigantic field of ruins.