People in Ashgabat

Ashgabat was such a strange city. Strangely quiet and strangely clean. We didn't see many people about at all and at first we couldn't find any shops or anything like in a normal city centre. In Iran you don't get a moment's peace because people are so friendly and always approach you. Ashgabat is the opposite. People don't seem to speak much. In Iran there were always people socialising and working etc. In Ashgabat we couldn't work out what everyone was doing!

When we first set out from our hotel to go and find a bank the only people we saw were a group of people trimming the grass on the road verges and central reservation ...with scissors! Mostly women, all wrapped up from head to toe like mummies with high vis jackets and lots of them. Lots of other women we saw were all wearing matching long red dresses.

What else made Ashgabat seem so strange?
The 11 O'clock curfew. 
The number of police and soldiers everywhere, guarding statues etc.
The huge empty roads that go nowhere.
The silence and stillness. The missing chatter on the buses and the street. The absence of horns and sirens.
The fact that everything always seems to be closed.
Stewards in the so-called Children's Theatre the were telling toddlers and those with babies to be quiet or leave. 
The absence of families and couples out and about.
The impersonal way people respond, if they respond at all. 
The incredible cleanliness. 
The way all the cars are big shiny and new.
The way the city is surrounded by such complete emptiness, no farms or villages.
The absence of shops and houses. 
The pictures of horses. 
The quotes from Turkmenbashi all over the place. 
The mesmerising floaty music on the buses. 
The lack of taxis, you just have to hitch everywhere. 
The likelihood that your hotel room is bugged. 

In what might have been the city centre some of the first people we saw out and about were these three ladies all wearing the same kind of long red dress.

Everywhere we went we saw women wrapped-up, even though the weather was hot, working doing things like gardening, sweeping etc. This lady had a soldier apparently watching her, or possibly chatting with her as she swept the pavement in the park, which was already very clean.

Soldiers guarding the big statue of Turkmanbashi standing perfectly still in the hot sunshine.

Women wearing beautiful long dresses.

A lady picking herbs in the park at the go-kart track. 

Ladies with matching red dresses in the park in the desert outside of the city. There weren't many people there.

Women working in the gardens.

A worker.

Somebody painting the swings.

Ladies in matching red dresses getting ice cream.

A market.

Possibly herbs and remedies for sale.  


  1. Hi. I wanna comment about lady's soldier watching. That soldier job is patrol that area from military criminals not to control that worker lady :). They are just talking with each other. Don't misunderstand, please. And the other issue about silence in city, it's because of population is not so much. Turkmen people are very familiar and friendly welcome guests, I think you were not so lucky in that case. By the way thank you for comments. I appreciate your work as Turkmenistan citizen. Good luck...

    1. Thank you. We found Turkmenistan a very welcoming and friendly country and really enjoyed our stay. Moreover, it was a very special and different kind of place to visit and therefore difficult to understand some of the things we saw. Thank you for your comments.