As we continue along the Silk Road in Uzbekistan, our minds often take us back to Turkmenistan, whose ancient history is longer and remains underground, unexcavated and unreconstructed.
The few clicks across the Caspian Sea brought us to a world of visual stimuli significantly different than that of the Caucasus (Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan). This is what we’ve always envisioned when historians speak of the iconic Silk Road and the Orient.
What surprised us most and left a lasting impression are the Turkmen people – friendly, open, curious, and offering genuine smiles. Turkmen women in their colorful dresses, intricately embroidered necklines and vibrant head scarves seem to glide across the pavement with astonishing posture.
In Turkmenistan we visited ancient settlements (Gonur Depe, Nissa), medieval Silk Road cities (Merv, Konye-Urgench), modern pilgrimage sites, the surreal capital (Ashgabat) and the blazing and hell-like Darvaza gas crater. We spent hours crossing deserts and met many-a-camel along the way. It was a full ten days and will likely remain one of the highlights of our journey.
For those of you interested, now is the time to visit Turkmenistan. Tourism is barely on the uptick and the place and its people appear to be opening up, if only in small ways. The timing of our visit just six months after Turkmenbashi’s death was impeccable, even if unintended.
About this blog/book of ours, we’ve been on the move a lot and struggling to connect with very limited and unreliable (slow and censored) internet access. At points in Turkmenistan, clicks could take 15 minutes to conclude and we were certain that big brother was always watching. As a result, it’s been difficult to impossible to post the kind of content we’d like. So, stay tuned.