Ashgabat entered the record book with this strange fact in 2013, after a huge architectural re-styling initiated by President Berdimuhamedow. A 22 km² territory in the city has 543 buildings, made of 4,513,584 m² white marble, while the 12.6 km long main avenue holds 170 buildings clad with a total of 1,156,818 m² white marble.
If we laid out all this marble flat, it would be 2.5 times the territory of Monaco!
When we first heard about this, we couldn’t resist the question – why would anyone even build an indoor Ferris wheel? The answer might be logical if we think of Ashgabat – it is hard to cover a regular Ferris wheel with marble and gold. Anyway, the Ashgabat Ferris wheel is 47,60 m high with a diameter of 57 meters, with 24 six-seat cabins – that are also covered. Wind or rain can’t stop you from enjoying this ride for sure!
The construction of this monstrous building cost about £57 million and entered the Guinness World Record Book in 2012.
The greatest number of fountain pools in a public place is also to be found in this city. The fountain which sits on the way from the airport to the city holds 27 synchronised fountains on a 14.8-hectare territory.
Missing the first place of this record table by 37 meters, the Ashgabat flagpole stands 133 meters tall – still seemed unreasonably high when we looked at it. The winner of this category, by the way, is the Jeddah flagpole in the capital of Saudi Arabia (171m), knocking out all other flag pole loving countries in 2014.
Maybe at first blink, a carpet museum may not seem the most appealing, it might be our favourite thing to visit in Ashgabat. Turkmen heart equals Turkmen carpet, as the art of carpet making is intertwined with Turkmen history. You will understand a lot more about local culture after visiting this place. Besides that, it holds the country’s largest and most precious carpet of 301 m². You can read about Turkmen carpets in my article:
Turkmen heart is made of carpet
The mosque was built by the Turkmenbashi and named after himself, Saparmurat Niyazov, the first president of independent Turkmenistan. The eccentric dictator wrote a kind of spiritual guide and origin story of Turkmen people called Ruhnama (The Book of the Soul), which he elevated to the same level as the Quran. Niyazov stated that he talked to God and those who read the Ruhnama three times are granted a place in heaven.
He built the Türkmenbaşy Ruhy Mosque, the largest in Central Asia in 2004 and covered the walls with verses from the Quran and his own book. He died in 2006, two years after the mosque was finished and now it is his final resting place.
The main prayer room can hold 10.000 pilgrims (7000 men on the main floor and 3000 women on the second level).
The Arch was erected to symbolize the neutrality of Turkmenistan in 1998, by the Turkmenbashi. Standing on the top of the 75 m high tower, the fully golden statue of the ex-president himself looking over his people.
The Independence Monument is one of the most impressive creations of the Turkmenbashi. As much as the dictator hated golden teeth, to the point where he banned them by law, he loved golden statues of himself.
In the centre of the 80.000 m² landscaped park, another giant golden statue of Mr Niyazov. 27 statues of Turkmen heroes surround the area. The Independence Monument itself is 27 meters tall and it’s shape was inspired by Turkmen tents and the traditional headgear worn by Turkmen girls.
The comical shape of the building with the giant disco ball locked in a circle made up of stars made us think it is where the party kicks off. And it is in a sense – it is literally what it’s called, a public place where locals organise their weddings. If you plan a unique wedding for yourself here, be warned: everyone is obligated to take their wedding photos in front of a portrait of President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow.
This 69-meter diameter fiery whole in the middle of nowhere in the Karakum Desert really looks like hell opened its gates and if we look deep down we would see the Devil himself. The truth is, the Darvaza Gas Crater is somewhat man-made.
In 1971, when the government drilled this territory, they encountered methane gas in this hole. To prevent the gas spreading, and hoping if they throw some matches in the gas will burn out rather soon and they can continue the work, geologists lit the crater on fire. This was a huge miss assumption – the crater continuously burns for 49-years.
Turkmenistan has some of the world’s largest natural gas fields, many believed to be yet discovered.
Not far from the city of Ashgabat, there is a cable car leading up to the mountains forming a natural border between Iran and Turkmenistan. The view is astonishing from here, but be careful if you fancy some hiking – armed soldiers of both countries guard this territory.