A young Chicagoan's strange erotic journey around the globe
Painting of Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, 2nd president of Turkmenistan, as seen in the lobby of the hotel as well as many other places in the country.
Woman at Tolkuchka Bazaar in the desert suburbs of Ashgabat
Local man playing the mouth harp at the bazaar
Womenz ’bout ta get they shop on
Inside view of the market’s clothing section
Dude wearing a Jesus piece with a kid on a leash. According to the CIA World Factbook, 9% of Turkmenistan’s population is Eastern Orthodox and 89% is Muslim.
This chick’s outfit vaguely reminds me of Shania Twain’s threads in the “That Don’t Impress Me Much” video
This clock tower is what I imagine R2-D2’s boner to look like
“Come get your cabbage!”
Candies for sale
Family walking near the rug and carpet section of the market
I can’t look at anyone carrying groceries like that without thinking of Home Alone when Kevin McCallister’s bags simultaneously bottom out on him.
A thumbs-up for the rugs
“Gimme back my sock, ya goat bastard!”
Shop ’til you drop, ladies!
Dude just hanging out near the camels
Worst dingleberries ever…
I hate when I get poop in my camel toe!
It seems so unnatural for me to see a camel’s face up close without a cigarette dangling from his mouth
Couple bros chillin’ in the desert. The man on the right is wearing a “telpek” or sheepskin hat resembling an afro.
Same dudes just straight kickin’ it
Friendly dude who talked to me in Russian for twenty minutes while I responded “Da, da, da(yes, yes, yes)” after everything he said.
YAWN!!! “I did so much shopping today!”
Back to the food section for seconds
Gate leading to the market
Close-up of the gate featuring another smiling image of President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow. Cult of Personality
The Palace of Happiness – the place in which newlyweds register their marriages and hold wedding receptions.
The top of The Palace of Happiness takes the shape of the Oguz Khan star which is the national emblem of Turkmenistan and can be found everywhere. Also, on the globe in the center is a map of Turkmenistan.
Flags of Turkmenistan – The crescent moon symbolizes hope for a bright future and the five stars represent the five provinces of Turkmenistan. On the red stripe are five traditional carpet designs used to represent the five major tribes of the country.
View of the hills behind Ashgabat
The 185-meter-tall Monument to the Turkmenistan Constitution
Turkmenistan is rich in natural resources. Billions of dollars of revenue from those resources has been spent covering over 500 buildings in about 4.5 million square feet of white marble.
I mean, it looks good and all, but there’s no doubt in my mind the country’s wealth could and should be put to better use.
Passing photo I took of the Alem Cultural and Entertainment Center. According to The Guardian, right there is the Guiness Book of World Records largest Ferris wheel in an enclosed space. The wheel stands at 154-feet-tall and cost $90 million to construct.
The Monument of Neutrality. Originally built in 1998 at the cost of $12 million before being moved by the new and current president, the structure stands at 312 feet tall.
At the base of The Monument of Neutrality
At the top of the Neutrality Monument is…
…a gold-plated statue of Turkmenistan’s first president, Saparmurat Niyazov, which, before the monument had been moved, used to rotate so it would always face the sun.
Fountain with the Constitution Monument in the background
Street view from the Neutrality Monument. Ashgabat seemed largely and eerily abandoned. The only thing missing in this picture is errant tumbleweed blowing across the bottom half.
More marble covered buildings as seen from the bus
A monument to Ruhnama – or, Book of the Soul – which was supposedly written by deceased President for Life, Saparmurat Niyazov, who once said that anyone who reads this book three times would automatically get into heaven. Combining spiritual and moral guidance, this autobiography is at schools, in homes, forcibly placed in mosques and churches, in businesses and is even said to be part of required reading for job interviews, school applications and to pass the driving test. Much like the writings of Kim Il Sung, this book has been a powerful tool for reinforcing a lasting and all-controlling cult of personality in Turkmenistan.
On the right is what I believe to be the Altyn Asyr shopping center which hosts the world’s largest fountain. Side note: former President Saparmurat Niyazov renamed the months of the year after his family members.
A screen at the park with current president Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow’s face and a flag waving in the background.
One of two women I saw in charge of keeping the area around Ruhnama clean
There’s the other one
On the last Sunday in April, Turkmenistan holds a Turkmen Racing Horse Festival celebrating the Akhal-Teke. While we were there, pictures of horses seemed to be all over the capital.
During this festival, 55-year-old President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow fell off a horse during a race but since all media is state-run, it was reported that he “finished first – demonstrating great skills of horse riding, the will to win, firmness and courage” and was also greeted by the audience with “a storm of applause” at the finish line. Did I mention the prize for winning this race was $11 million USD?
Sight seen rolling down the streets of Ashgabat
Another out-the-bus-window shot
Ashgabat circus. According to Reuters: The circus, the cinema, opera, ballet, lip-synching and gold teeth had all been banned by President for Life Saparmurat Niyazov. Since Niyazov’s death in 2006, President Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov has reversed all those bans except ballet.
Inside the circus
A violent skit which’d been adored by children and parents alike. Had the same sketch been shown in the US to a crowd full of children, parents would be in an uproar.
I was more interested in observing the crowd at the circus than I was watching the actual circus.
During intermission, all kids were invited to come on down to the ground floor to take a horsey ride around the ring or get strapped to a rope/umbrella combo to have their bodies yanked to the ceiling.
Circus employee strapping one of the little dudes in
“See ya, little dude”
Near the top
Turkmenistan Manat. 1USD = approximately 2.85TMT
Man playing with his meat before I put it in my mouth
Turabek Khanum Mausoleum
Many people come to visit Koneurgench as a holy site
Woman exiting Turabek Khanum
Turabek Khanum Mausoleum from the front
The entrance up close with pilgrims on the move
Family photo at the entrance of Turabek Khanum
Another family photo
Out behind Turabek Khanum had been an old Soviet style cemetery.
When I was in Turabek Khanum Mausoleum, I saw these two girls…
…tying pieces of cloth to this little wooden door. I would then notice that pieces of cloth had been tied to stuff all around Koneurgench. My guide said that this is done by people to either leave their mark so their wish may be granted or as a means of connecting with the upper Superior power – neither of which are approved practices in Islam because people might end up worshipping the place instead of Allah.
Dome of Turabek Khanum
“From the windows to the walls…”
This bird and several others who have now made the mausoleum their home almost shit on my head several times while inside Turabek Khanum.
Couple hanging out outside Turabek Khanum
The aforementioned Soviet cemetery
Turabek Khanum Mausoleum as seen from the graveyard
Does it make me a necrophiliac if I enjoy taking photos of old graves?
The star at the top of this grave reminds me of the phrase “rusty sheriff’s badge” which is used in reference to the appearance of a human anus.
People heading towards the minaret of Kutlug Timur
I forget which building this was
Turabek Khanum Mausoleum from the Kutlug Timur Minaret
Dude from the photo previous
Woman from two photos ago
Some sort of offerings in the wall on which the dude was leaning
Minaret of Kutlug Timur – Built over 700 years ago and although leaning slightly, this brick minaret still stands 60-meters-tall.
Kutlug Timur Minaret up close
People had ritualistically been walking circles around structures at Koneurgench…
…especially the Kutlug Timur Minaret.
Aw jyea – y’all already know what it is!
Pilgrim family with the Sultan Takesh Mausoleum in the background
Ivan, an Australian bro, gettin’ down and dirty for an elusive photograph
Kyrk Molla Hill. Traditionally, if a couple is hoping to conceive a child, it is said to help fertility if the girl rolls down this hill…
…and the guys leave a crib atop it.
The stacking of stones – little stone towers like this were to be found all over the site of Koneurgench.
Our local guide had indicated that this stacking could’ve been influenced by Buddhism, which’d once upon a time been practiced in Turkmenistan and has lasted over the years in spite of Islam taking over as the most prominent religion in the region.
Like the stones at Koneurgench, “I like my ladies ‘stacked’ and that’s a fact – ain’t holdin’ nothin’ back…”
Offerings to the holy site of Koneurgench
More offerings which could be for the holy site in general or, specifically, a tribute to the ancient graveyard out there in the background.
Woman stacking stones with one of the piles looking like it’s going into that guy’s butt
Same woman up close
Turabek Khanum Mausoleum from afar
Wishin’ ‘n’ hopin’ ‘n’ thinkin’ ‘n’ prayin’
Pilgrims in traditional garb
Mausoleum of Fakhr ad-Din Razi
Close-up of the entrance
Someone had been cleaning a bird’s nest out of the top of the mausoleum while we were there and it was full of empty shells. That turtle-eating son of a bitch must’ve been one big-ass bird.
If you look closely at this photo…
…you can see a couple in the shade sharing a tender embrace. I think their time would be better spent with her rolling down Kyrk Molla Hill and him dropping off a crib at the top.
Unattended pack of camels making their way along the road in the middle of the Karakum Desert
The Karakum Desert covers about 135,000 square miles and 70% of Turkmenistan’s terrain.
Where da fuck am I?
Water crater contents
An Australian named Joe standing in front of the Mud Crater
Not too exciting flames of the Mud Crater which don’t compare at all to…
…those of the Darvaza Gas Crater. Often referred to as “The Door to Hell,” this is the crater by night from a distance. Those are the outlines of tourists standing along the edge.
The Darvaza area is rich in natural gas.
In 1971, the ground beneath a Soviet drilling rig collapsed leaving this 230 foot hole. To avoid the discharge of poisonous gases, they decided to set it ablaze in hopes that it would burn off in a couple days. 42 years later, it still burns.
Ya boi lettin’ both birds fly
A Canadian bro, Alex, flexin’ a bionic boner
The actual village of Darvasa lies about 260km north of Ashgabat and has a population of 350…or at least it used to. In 2004, at the order of President for Life Saparmurat Niyazov, the village was disbanded because he felt it was “an unpleasant sight for tourists.”
Not sure what these things are called, but I’m pretty sure they’re placed on the side of the road to keep sand off.
Coming across this thing in the middle of the desert was beautifully serendipitous.
There was absolutely nothing around it for miles and miles and miles and miles.
Someone had pounded and shattered a bottle of vodka just near that trailer though.
Thankfully, it wasn’t a bottle of the good stuff with the president on it.
Building which looks like a mosque long since abandoned in the preliminary stages of construction
Not certain what this waterway was part of – Karakum Canal perhaps?
“Who wears short shorts?”
Approaching some local dudes on the seemingly ready-to-collapse bridge…
Showin’ off his catch
Grandson with grandfather in a traditional telpek hat
White hand belonging to an Alaskan named Tom giving a stuffed moose to a local kid
Chillin’ by the car
Man waving from a donkey cart
Some sort of desert beetle
Camp spot at sunset
Woman standing in front of her home in Dashoguz
Chubby kid pointing at strange foreign people
The Dragoman truck, our means of conveyance, parked on a street in Dashoguz
Dining room of our gracious guide’s Dashoguz home
Same little chunky kid, as fascinated with foreign people as he was when I saw him an hour beforehand