Before we begin with some amazing facts about Turkmenistan, make sure you read our blog on “9 Interesting Facts About Israel” for some insightful information.
1. Turkmenistan is one of the least-visited countries in the world. In the whole of 2019, just 8,000 foreigners visited Turkmenistan, including those who came to the country as part of official delegations. It is the most expensive country in Central Asia for travellers. You will need to book a tour package to get a visa.
2. Turkmenistan is 70% desert. Travel across Turkmenistan and you’ll encounter a lot of sand. Desert and sand are the prominent geographical feature as the majority of the country is home to the vast Karakum Desert. What’s remarkable and difficult to imagine is the country’s geologic history which states that the entire area was home to a giant sea 30 million years ago.
3. One of the biggest draws for travellers in Turkmenistan is the Darvaza gas crater which burns continuously in the middle of the desert. Also known as the “gate of hell,” the gas crater really does lend the feeling of staring into hell, particularly at night when its red flames flare up against the blackness of the desert night. Although the gas crater may appear a natural phenomenon, it is actually the result of a mistake made by a group of Soviet geologists who were drilling for natural gas in 1971. After their equipment and transport fell into the hole and gas began escaping, they opted to light it on fire, imagining it would take only a few days to burn off. Considering that the crater still burns over 48 years later, you could say their calculation of available subterranean gas was a bit off.
4. Turkmen people associate themselves with five main nomadic tribes. One of the signs of this nomadic tradition and culture is the telpek, a large sheepskin hat, worn by men. The telpek is designed to maintain a stable body temperature throughout different types of weather, from the hot summer days to the cold winter nights of the desert.
5. The central part of Ashgabat, the capital city of Turkmenistan, flush with massive structures and elaborate public spaces literally shines in the hot desert sun thanks to being built primarily in white marble. In fact, so much marble was consumed in the construction of the city, the Guinness Book of World Records has awarded Ashgabat the prize of having the highest density of marble buildings in the world.
6. Turkmen melons are so famous and sweet that they have their own national holiday. The 2nd Sunday of August is celebrated in the country as Melon Day and is officially a national holiday.
7. Turkmenistan is a land of strange laws. President Saparmurat Niyazov, the first president of Turkmenistan from 1991-2006, was well known for having conceived of a string of unusual laws passed during his tenure. For example, enacting a law changing the names of the days of the week to match the names of the members of his family. Or banning smoking in public because he was trying to quit smoking and didn’t want to see other people smoke during his personal struggle. While many of these laws were changed back once the current president, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, came to power, some still remain. And new ones emerged. For example, black cars are now forbidden in Turkmenistan in favour of white cars because white is a colour that “brings good luck.”
8. Most phone apps are blocked in Turkmenistan including e-mail. The country got its first messaging app in the year 2019. Also, you will not find any International retail brands in Turkmenistan.
9. Turkmen horse breed known as Akhal Teke are considered one of the oldest, exotic and rarest horse breed in the world. The country has a ministry dedicated to its upkeep.