By: Rachel Diotte-Lyles
Turkmenistan, officially The Republic of Turkmenistan, is considered by its government to be a democratic, law-based and secular state and spans a territory roughly the size of Spain, or 491.21 thousand sq km (Embassy of Turkmenistan, n.d.).
Turkmenistan belongs to the south-western part of Central Asia; bordering the countries of Kazahkstan and Uzbekistan in the North and East, Iran and Afghanistan in the South, with the Caspian sea on its Western borders. (Brummel, 2005; Kantarci, 2007; "Turkmenistan", n.d. a).
Despite only emerging as an independent state in 1991, the lands of Turkmenistan have an extended history fashioned by the legacies of its many inhabitants; from the Achaemenid Empire of ancient Persia to Arab Conquerors and finally, a Russian conquest. (Brummel, 2005; "Turkmenistan", n.d. b).
It was in 1894 that Russia formally took charge of Turkmenistan and consolidated it into its empire, where it would remain until the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991. As the breakdown of the Soviet Union neared, Turkmenistan officially declared its independence on October 27th, 1991.
Consequently, becoming a member of the Commonwealth of the Independent States (an international organization composed of former Soviet republics). Succeeding their independence, the past leader of the Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic, Saparmurat Niyazov, maintained his power as the leader of Turkmenistan.
President Niyazov's capacity significantly expanded during the early 1990s, and in 1999, he became the 'President for Life,' or 'Turkmenbashi' - the father of all Turkmen.
More than a decade after Turkmenistan's declaration of independence, in 2005, they diminished their status in the Commonwealth of the Independent States to that of an "associate member." President Niyazov explained that this was due to the country's policy of permanent neutrality ("Turkmenistan," n.d. a).
Turkmenistan is commonly known as a reasonably poor and underdeveloped country. Despite the billions of dollars invested in modernization projects in Ashgabat, Turkmenbashi, and other cities in post-Soviet times.
Be that as it may, the nation's immense oil and gas lines are experiencing improvement. Subsequently, pipelines are opening to China, Iran, and soon Azerbaijan ("Turkmenistan," n.d. b).
The number of inhabitants of Turkmenistan is made up of more than 6.2 million people; composed of over more than 100 nations and ethnic groups living in the country (Embassy of Turkmenistan, n.d.).
However, Ethnic Turkmens make up the vast majority of the people of Turkmenistan. Census figures from 1995 indicated that Turkmens made up about 77% of the population, Uzbeks made up 9.2% and Russians 6.7%.
The Turkmen are tribal people, and this background remains influential in many spheres of their lives; from the patronage networks to determining marriage partners. Differences amid the tribes appear in the styles of dress, carpet designs, dialect, and many Turkmen will insist, even in one's character (Brummel, 2005).
Why Visit Turkmenistan?
Archaeology, scenery, monuments, or carpet lovers alike, Turkmenistan will have something of interest for all visitors (Brummel, 2005).
Scattered across Turkmenistan are major sites symbolizing the various ages and rules that the lands have encountered over time. Furthermore, these sites are untouched by mainstream tourism, and therefore can be visited without the worry of hordes of guests (Brummel, ix).
Ancient Merv, an oasis-city in Central Asia, along the old silk road was for a long time one of the most relevant Islamic capitals of the world. However, here the tourists are outnumbered by camels (Brummel, 2005; Embassy of Turkmenistan, n.d.).
Presently, Turkmenistan has three UNESCO World Heritage sites: Kyunyaurgench, Ancient Merv, and Parthian fortresses of Nisa; Kunyaurgench is the unexcavated ruins of the 12th century capital of Khwarezm, ancient Merv is a major oasis-city in Central Asia along the old silk road, the Parthian fortresses of Nisa are one of the first capitals of Parthians (Brummel, 2005).
Every one of these destinations speaks to a vast cultural and scientific worth, and have become some of the most loved spots by visitors of Turkmenistan (Embassy of Turkmenistan, n.d.).
It also worth noting the city of Ashgabat, which was once unremarkable, now is becoming increasingly popular with tourists. The modernization of Ashgabat is transforming the city into a fantasy of white marble palaces, modern apartment blocks, and large fountains complexes. (Brummel, 2005).
Another popular tourist attraction in Turkmenistan is colloquially known as 'The Gates to Hell,' and officially known as the Darvaza Crater. In 1971, oil exploration in the region accidentally struck a large pocket of natural gas and collapsed into the cavern.
This incident resulted in a large crater filled with fire, which still burns to this day. The Darvaza Crater has become a popular camping spot for tourists, as the crater is best viewed at night.
These are just a few of the exciting tourist attractions in Turkmenistan. However, many also enjoy visiting the natural attractions of the deserts and mountains of this country (Brummel, 2005).
Authentic and intriguing sites are not the only thing that Turkmenistan has to offer to tourists. The primary impressions visitors will take away from a trip to Turkmenistan is of its people and their traditions.
Ladies wearing luxurious weaved velvet dresses, white-bearded elders wearing telpeks (oversized woolen hats), magnificent Ahal Tekke horses, burgundy-conditioned carpets, and ladies adorned in heavy silver jewelry amongst luxurious and loud wedding festivities.
Albeit difficult to get to, Turkmenistan offers excellent rewards to those who visit (Brummel, 2005).
Tourism in Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan’s travel industry is in need of economic advancements. In 1997, lodgings numbered 2,616 with 6,571 beds, and only an occupancy rate of 24% ("Turkmenistan, Tourism, Travel, and Recreation”, 2005).
Although tourists are welcome in Turkmenistan, the requirement for guided tours typically discourages visitors. Moreover, the exceptional police and military presence creates an unorthodox environment for outsiders ("Turkmenistan," n.d. b).
In 2016 alone, only 6,000 foreign tourists visited Turkmenistan. More Turkmen visited Georgia in 2017 than all foreign visitors combined to Turkmenistan in 2016 (Hatamov, 2019).
The legislature has concentrated on the foundation, development of infrastructure, conferences, and business offices in order to attract international visitors.
Avaza - a multi-billion dollar development venture close to the city of Turkmenbashi planned for making a "national touristic zone" of more than 60 world-class inns, shopping, and another universal air terminal. The administration compares the undertaking to Dubai, yet there is minimal outside venture up to this point ("Turkmenistan," n.d. b)
Traveling to Turkmenistan
Aside from short visits by inhabitants of some close by Kazakh and Uzbek districts, everybody needs a visa to enter Turkmenistan Travel. Travel guides suggest applying for a Turkmenistan visa before arriving in the country, allowing for as much time as possible in advance.
In the case of a long-term visa, a Turkmen vacationer office will issue a welcome letter, as is needed by most consulates, after the booking of a full visit. Preparing for the letter of welcome can start around 90 days before the outing and will take half a month.
The inviting organization will email the letter of welcome, and afterward, foreigners can apply for the visa at the material consulate ("Turkmenistan," n.d. b).
Turkmenistan can be accessed by plane from Istanbul, Frankfurt as well as Dubai ("Turkmenistan," n.d. b).
There are railroad associations with Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Iran. No traveler trains cross the outskirt at any of them, be that as it may, basically secluding the nation ("Turkmenistan," n.d. b).
Safety in Turkmenistan
Officially, Turkmenistan is a nation without crime and a sheltered and neighborly nation. Although this is probably not entirely accurate, it is still a safe place for tourists from around the world to visit.
Turkmenistan has low occurrences of fierce wrongdoing, to a great extent since the Turkmen government severely rebuffs crimes and that most laws are firmly enforced. The regular voyager ought not to have any issue getting around securely (Brummel, 2005).
Brummel, P. (2005). Turkmenistan. Guilford, CT: The Globe Pequot Press Inc.
Hatamov, A. (2019). Is Turkmenistan Turning Its Back on Lucrative Foreign Tourism? Retrieved from https://en.turkmen.news/spotlight/is-turkmenistan-turning-its-back-on-lucrative-foreign-tourism/
Kantarci, K. (2007). Perceptions of Central Asia Travel Conditions: Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan. Journal of Hospitality & Leisure Marketing, 15(2), 55–71. doi: 10.1300/j150v15n02_04
Turkmenistan. (n.d.-a). Retrieved September 18, 2019 https://www.nationsencyclopedia.com/knowledge/Turkmenistan.html
Turkmenistan. (n.d.-b). Retrieved September 18, 2019 https://wikitravel.org/en/Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan, Tourism, Travel, and Recreation. (2005). http://www.nationsencyclopedia.
Tourism & Travel in Turkmenistan. (2005). http://www.turkmenistanembassy.org/ turkmen/travel/travel.html
Tourism: WASHINGTON, USA - EMBASSY OF TURKMENISTAN. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://usa.tmembassy.gov.tm/en/turkmenistan/tourism