Meet George Jetson and his wife Jane. Visit their shining sterile futuristic city.
Admire the snow-white marble buildings, be blinded by the sun reflection in the mirror of a thousand panes. Let the sublime geometry of architecture enchant you (the icy silver office center shaped like a folded sheet of paper with a saucer on the top is the one where our slightly slant-eyed George works). Go on a shopping spree to Jane’s favourite glittering mall. She’ll be wearing her ankle-long skirt and an enormous colourful construction on the top of her head. Let the efficiency of robots collecting every piece of paper from the streets amaze you. Add to this image a fountain on each crossroad and four taxi drivers beside it, then two fountains by every more significant building with three police officers nearby.
Welcome to Ashgabat.
The main job of these police officers consists of preventing the few tourists from taking pictures of the presidential palace and all government buildings, which are shown on the back of every banknote anyway. People – also no photo. Neither the bazaar, nor the Christmas tree. They don’t like pictures here. They really don’t. And what an incredible photo-radar they’ve got! They will spot your tiny camera from 300 m away on the other side of the road. This is not the easiest capital city to capture.
Pity! There so are things worth capturing here. Ashgabat was completely rebuilt after the earthquake in the mid of the previous century. The idea behind the project: the Jetsons meet Dubai. And that’s how Soviet bleak housing full of camels turned into a deserted and secluded metropolis. Why deserted? Well, 80% of the country is covered by the Karakorum desert. Why secluded? Not just because the streets are empty. Secluded, because Turkmenistan is a neutral country, a Central Asian Switzerland. In practice, this means that the country doesn’t meddle with world politics and the world has no right to meddle with theirs. Thus, when Turkmenistan claims that it has free election, nobody asks if this means that they are free of charge or whether you don’t need to book ahead to take part in them.
The former president reigned lifelong, because his nation loved him. He gave the people gas, water, electricity and salt for free, these are all good reasons to love your president lifelong. He introduced numerous constructive changes, both constitutional and linguistic. January he named after his own title: Turkmenbashi – the Head of all Turkmen, April after his mother and September after his very own book, which, by the way, next to the Quran was the basis for the Turkmen education. For this reason almost all libraries in the country were closed: it’s hard to run this business with two books. The current president slowly pulls back on these decisions. According to the latest polls, only 97,14% of the society loves him.
Beware, ruling party!