The Sincerest Form of Flattery

The Ertuğrul Gazi Mosque, said to be patterned after the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, sits at the end of a grand boulevard of parks that are almost as empty as the mosque itself. Large enough to hold 5,000 worshipers, it sees only a small fraction of that since it’s ‘unlucky’ or ‘haunted’ due to aContinue reading “The Sincerest Form of Flattery”

Pendulum of Reflection

Most Persian-style mosques are famed for their ornate surfaces and the interior of the Krezrety Omar mosque in Ashgabat certainly lives up to that rich history. What really catches the eye though is the unusual chandelier underneath the central dome. Oscillating, mesmerizing, and constantly reminding the faithful that the sumptuous surroundings are a mear diversionContinue reading “Pendulum of Reflection”

Hidden in Plain Sight

It’s sometimes hard for the eyes not to focus on President Saparmurat Niyazov’s shining doppelgänger in Independence Park. Gold, however, eventually looses its luster (or in post-presidential times gets replaced) and we have to look closer for the timeless, more subtle, effects at play. Do you see them? How many Rub el Hizb can youContinue reading “Hidden in Plain Sight”

Back to the Beginning

Ostensibly this is the Monument to Ten Years of Independence from the Soviet Union, with a wild herd of ten Akhal-Teke (“Golden Horses”) coming over a ridge. These steeds, prized for their speed, endurance, and adaptability, have been bred for thousands of years by local tribes. Those tribes would trade them for arms, gold, andContinue reading “Back to the Beginning”

The End of the Yellow Brick Road

The phrase ‘lost to the sands of time’ tends to conjure up thoughts of mighty empires that have faded away into the desert. Nisa, the first capital of the Parthians, is no different in the dusty hills a short distance outside of Ashgabat. The spectacular mountaintop setting on what is now the Turkmenistan/Iran border beliesContinue reading “The End of the Yellow Brick Road”

A Moment of Silence

The near-empty streets of Ashgabat add to the eerie silence of the memorial to the 7.3 magnitude earthquake in 1948 that leveled the city and killed tens of thousands. Raising from the ashes of destruction on the back of a bull (traditional symbol of strength) comes a Golden Child (the future president, Saparmurat Niyazov).