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The start of the Silk Road

Central Asia - Konye Urgench

sunny 30 °C
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Dawn at the Door to Hell

Dawn at the Door to Hell

Waking up in the desert, taking one last look at the Door to Hell, we got back in our 4x4s and headed towards the border.

Driving through the desert towards Uzbekistan

Driving through the desert towards Uzbekistan

This was a long drive, taking four hours along atrocious pot hole-littered roads stopping en route at the historic Konye Urgench.

Unlike the rest of wacky Turkmenistan, Konye Urgench was much more like what we would be seeing in Uzbekistan - being a UNESCO Silk Road historic city. However being Turkmenistan the site was relatively underdeveloped and dilapidated.

Konye Urgench

Konye Urgench

Walking around the site, consisting of a number of mausoleums, a minaret and a mosque, we got a feel for the next few days before finally heading to the border.

After a long crossing, including a health check and a taxi ride across no-man's land we eventually made it to our coach on the Uzbek side that would take us to the historic city of Khiva and our first night in a hotel in four days. Bizarrely, as unwelcome as we were made to feel by Border Control, as soon as we drove along the local roads every cotton picker and child stopped to wave at us. A nice touch, even if slightly spurious.

In Uzbekistan there is still a resistance to accepting that inflation has occurred. Despite the fact that $1 buys 3,000 Som, the highest note that is seen on the street is the 1,000 Som note. In addition to this, there is a black market that gives us double the amount of Som.

£25 later...

£25 later...

After us all converting our money for the next five days we ended up with a massive bag full of notes. For just £25 I had two large wads of money to carry around with me. No wallets needed in Uzbekistan - just bags.

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Turkmenistan Tagged history fire border gas crater centralasia silkroad Comments (0)

A night at the Door to Hell

Central Asia - Ashgabat & Darvaza

sunny 32 °C
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Waking up in the mountains we made our way back by minibus to Ashgabat.

We first stopped off at the Türkmenbaşy Ruhy Mosque, located in Gypjak, just outside the capital. This impressive mosque has capacity for 10,000 people - the largest in Central Asia, and is located in the birthplace of Turkmenbashy.

Türkmenbaşy Ruhy Mosque

Türkmenbaşy Ruhy Mosque

Not only is it visibly impressive being filled with gold, but also represents both the Qur'an as well as Turkmenbashy's own book, the Ruhnama in equal measure.

Turkmenbashy's mausoleum

Turkmenbashy's mausoleum

Again, the mosque is built symbolically based on the date of independence as well as having to it's west, the mausoleum of the former president as well as his family, many of whom who died in the Ashgabat earthquake in 1948 that killed 10% of the country's population.

After this we headed to the UNESCO Heritage site of Nisa, the Parthian capital, where there are views of the Mosque and Ashgabat, before heading back to Ashgabat itself to sightsee the rest of the city.

Wedding Palace

Wedding Palace

We began by circling the teardrop shaped Yyldyz Hotel, located on a hill over the city, before heading towards the Wedding Palace, a building that embraces the Rub el Hizb (eight pointed star) that is represented all over the country. Not only is it shaped accordingly, but also has a globe with an exaggerated Turkmenistan map located inside a cube shaped Rub el Hizb.

Downtown Ashgabat

Downtown Ashgabat

Enjoying views over the city of other monuments we then drove past the Ashgabat Stadium and into the city centre. Again, much of the city was empty and styled as if it was Las Vegas, full of white marble and luscious wide green Avenues.

Desert Travels

Desert Travels

Getting back to the hotel we relaxed for an hour before our 4x4s arrived that would take us to the Darvaza Gas Crater this afternoon. After a long drive through the desert along worsening roads, eventually we arrived at the 'Door to Hell' shortly before sunset.

The Door to Hell

The Door to Hell

The Door to Hell is an incredible experience. An industrial accident gone wrong, it has been constantly alight since the Soviets attempted to burn the remaining gas off in 1971.

The heat given off by the crater is intense and the sheer size of it, in the middle of the barren desert is overpowering. Whilst the context is amazing in the day, it is at night when the only light is the crater itself that the site lives up to the hype.

The Door to Hell by night

The Door to Hell by night

Spending a while taking selfies and enjoying the heat in the quickly cooling desert I then headed back to the camp for dinner and a night in a tent, closing the second day of the trip, and the last full day in the wacky Turkmenistan.

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Turkmenistan Tagged architecture mosque monument city fire gas crater centralasia Comments (0)

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