More than 80% of this fascinating country is covered by the Karakum Desert - one of the driest places on earth. Formerly known as Turkmenia, the country is bordered by Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Iran, as well as the Caspian Sea. The country possesses the world’s sixth largest reserves of natural gasses which, until recently, meant that citizens received amenities such as electricity, water and natural gas for free. Tourism in Turkmenistan has been growing rapidly in recent years, and with all tourists needing a visa, many travel agencies provide guided tours.
Uzbekistan is a country rich with culture, and there are numerous historical buildings and sites to visit on your trip. Monuments, statues, mosques, minarets and museums can be found across the country, with some of the best tourist spots including:
Traditionally, the Turkmen people were nomads, and have only really been considered as one coherent group since the 1930’s, when Joseph Stalin forged them together. However, different clans still retain their individual traits, including dialects and dress. Particularly noticeable are the telpek hats often work by Turkmen - these black sheepskin hats are said to look like afros. Females from different clans like to wear headdresses, and brooches made from semi-precious stones.
A famous craft from Turkmenistan are the Turkmen rugs - colourfully woven, and with patterns differing between clans. The cuisine of Turkmenistan is similar to other Central Asian foods, with plov being the everyday staple. Rice is fried with carrots and mutton, and sometimes served with dumplings called manti. Other fried dumplings and pies are a popular choice, as is the meat and vegetable soup called shurpa. The country also exports a huge quantity of local melons.
If you’re looking for the perfect souvenir (and don’t want to cram a whole Turkmen carpet in your suitcase!) how about some of the traditional silk fabric called keteni? If you like the look of the national dress, purchase your own telpek hat, which you can get in the traditional black colour or in white. For a local instrument, the djul-djul is a wind instrument that is sure to excite your music loving friends back home. Local jewelry is also a popular choice - be sure to check out the specific meanings behind different pieces, especially if they feature different precious stones.