The American University of Central Asia is housed next to a phantom shadow of the Lenin. Its main building was once headquarters the Kyrgyz’s communist party and supreme council. Eager students here study journalism, law and politics as the larger than life Lenin statue looks on with disapproval.
This ancient city is the one of the oldest Silk Road stops in the region whose history spans across 2,5oo years. Istaravstan is one of those places where travelers can just spend the day getting lost in this living museum. It’s also hard not to notice the more recent Soviet presence in the city after passing a statue of Lenin or signs written out in cyrillic.
The area around Dishon-Qala in Khiva is ubiquitous Central Asia: every view contains layers of history to be sifted through at any moment. What arrests your vision first? The ancient fortress in the background? Perhaps the playground with prominent Soviet ‘Cosmonauts to the Stars’ theme? Or perchance the newly painted color scheme reflecting the thoughts and desires of the present day?
Old ships rest on the bottom of what was once the harbor in Moynaq, Karakalpakstan. The Aral Sea has retreated hundreds of kilometers to the north leaving a vast seabed exposed to the blazing sun in its wake. When will humanity learn the consequences of its actions?
If a visitor just stayed in Ashgabat and never left the city limits then they would never think that it is literally an oasis in the middle of the water parched Karakum Desert. Fountains are bursting out clean water and offer some much-needed relief from the heat. The task of keeping the city and its surrounding parks both clean and green is a daily battle for the small army of city workers.
It doesn’t take more than a 5 minute drive from the city center to see the picture above. The Kopet Dang mountains in the south of the city mark where the vast Karakum Desert really begins. Here, there are no water fountains, air-conditioned bus stations or green parks. The newly planted evergreen saplings appear to be an effort to liven up the place, but it’s hard to think that they have any chance of a long life without water to feed them. It’s a hard life here in the desert even if you are in a country rich in resources.
President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow has a bold vision of doing the nearly impossible. He wants to transform the desert into a lush and green forest. His program is currently throwing money at the problem
. This vision is a positive one that many would love to be brought to fruition, but it’s not too hard to see how this one ends.