Turkmenbashi (leader of Turkmens)
One of the reasons I am so excited about participating in the mongol rally is the unique countries through which we will be traveling. I will try to keep this blog updated with interesting things I find out about the countries we will visit, people we might meet, and things we might see.
Turkmenistan seems to be quite interesting. For example, former president for life, Saparmurat Niyazov, issued a number of decrees that one might find interesting:
- banning of recorded music at public events
- banning of opera and ballet “because they are unnecessary”
- no lip synching
- no gold teeth
There was also a strange requirement for getting a driver’s permit in Turkmenistan, reports the BBC: “…in Turkmenistan, knowledge of the highway code and control of the steering wheel are no longer enough. Candidates now have to pass an exam in President Niyazov’s spiritual writings, contained in a book named the Ruhnama.”
Former President Niyazov’s Ruhnama turns out to be quite the interesting book. Apparently he claimed that God let him know directly that if any student read it 3 times, the student would be admitted to paradise automatically. There is a documentary about it:
I hope when we get pulled over in Turkmenist an our international driving permits will be enough to persuade the police to let us go. I don’t know much about the the Ruhnama. Turkmenistan now has a new president, Mr. Berdimuhammedow, so do drivers now have to learn his spiritual writings?
Lots of Desert and Gas, Not so Many People
Turkmenistan is made up mainly of desert and has the smallest population of the five former Soviet republics in Central Asia. Beneath the vast deserts lie some of Earth’s largest proven oil and gas reserves. The country is bordered by Afghanistan on the south, Iran on the west and Uzbekistan to the North.
One thing in the Turkmenistan desert that we are looking forward to seeing is the “Door to Hell,” a giant crater in the city of Darweze that is constantly burning natural gas. That is if we are allowed to take our car there. I have read that the government is pretty restrictive about transit visas and routes taken.
Watch it on youtube: Here
Our trip through Turkmenistan should take us from Turkmenbashy to Ashgabat, then north to Darweze and into Uzbekistan and on toward the Aral sea, which will be the topic of another post all together.