Turkmenistan shares borders with Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan and Iran. To the west is the Caspian Sea. Nearly 80 per cent of the country is taken up by the Kara-Kum (Black Sand) Desert, the largest in the CIS. Turkmenistan’s tourist trade is relatively undeveloped. Almost all the attractions lie around the fringes of the desert and in oases. The capital, Ashgabat, on the southern rim of the Kara-Kum Desert, is a modern city. It replaced the one founded in 1881, which was destroyed in an earthquake in 1948. The Sunday market in Ashgabat is the best place anywhere to buy Turkmen carpets. Mary, due east of Ashgabat, is Turkmenistan’s second city. It lies near the remains of the city of Merv, which was once the second city of Islam until Ghengis Khan’s son Toloi reduced it to rubble, killing many inhabitants in 1221. Plov - pronounced ‘plo’ - is the staple food for everyday and celebrations and consists of chunks of mutton, shredded yellow turnip and rice fried in a large wok. Ashgabat has an opera and ballet theatre, which shows both Russian and European works and a drama theatre.

488,100 sq km (188,456 sq miles).

Population :
4,737,000 (official estimate 2000)., Population Density : 9.7 per sq km.

Ashgabat. Population: 605,000 (official estimate 1999).

Turkmenistan shares borders with Kazakhstan to the north, Uzbekistan to the east, Afghanistan to the southeast and Iran to the south. To the west is the Caspian Sea. Nearly 80 per cent of the country is taken up by the Kara-Kum (Black Sand) Desert, the largest in the CIS. The longest irrigation canal in the world stretches 1100km (687 miles), from the Amu-Darya River in the east, through Ashgabat, before being piped the rest of the way to the Caspian Sea.

Republic. Gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Head of State and Government : President Saparmyrat Nyyazow (Türkmenbashy) since 1992.

Turkmen is the official state language, and is closer to Turkish, Azeri and Crimean Tartar than those of its neighbours Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. The Turkmen script was changed from Latin to Cyrillic in 1940, but the process of changing back to the Turkish version of the Latin script is underway.

Predominantly Sunni Muslim with a small Russian Orthodox minority. Turkmenistan shares the Central Asian Sufi tradition.

Time :
GMT + 5.
Electricity :
220 volts AC, 50Hz. Round two-pin continental plugs are standard.

Telephone : Country code: 993. Area code for Ashgabat: 12. Outgoing international code: 810.

Mobile telephone : GSM 900 network covers Ashgabat area. Operated by BCTI.

Fax :
Services are available in the main hotels for residents only.

Internet :
ISPs include Turkemenistan Online (website : http://www.online.tm).

Telegram : Services are available from post offices in large towns.

Post : Letters to Western Europe and the USA can take between 2 weeks and 2 months. Stamped envelopes can be bought from post offices. Mail addresses should be laid out in the following order: country, postcode, city, street, house number and lastly the person’s name. Post office hours: Mon-Fri 0900-1800. The main Post Office in Ashgabat is open until 1900.

Press : The press in Turkmenistan is still censored. The main newspapers in Ashgabat are Turkmenistan and Vatan (both in Turkmen) and Neitralnyi Turkmentistan (Russian).

Radio :
BBC World Service (website : http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice) and Voice of America (website: http://www.voa.gov) can be received. From time to time the frequencies change and the most up-to-date can be found online.

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Information provided by Turkmenistan Tourism Board.


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