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 a number of deaths during its construction. In that respect, it seems that some comparisons are only skin deep.
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 diversion of focus to something much larger.
This unusually ornamented Lenin statue, one of the few still left standing in Central Asia, presides over the dismantling of his utopian vision. Perhaps it too will someday be glossed over in a sea of white marble, relegated to a brief moment of history.
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 you count?
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).