Day 20, Friday May 10, 2019 Leaving Ashgabat

We left our hotel in the early morning. There was no crowd.

This is not a place where many tourists come to, sadly. It is a beautiful place and the people were wonderful.

This “White City” is full of beautiful things and mysteries.

The streets are wide with colored lights and fountains running between them. The lights constantly change color. You couldn’t imagine a more beautiful place.

There are many parks, fountains, and landmarks in the city. The structures are beyond imagination, sometimes.

We went to several memorials to those men and women killed in WWll. Many of the people of Central Asia fought for the allies and gave their lives for our freedom.

We also went to a memorial remembering those who died in the great earthquake of 1948. In the past, these people believed that the world rested on the horns of a bull. A precarious place in the best of times.

The cleaning women are here as they are on the streets of the city, cleaning up after the birds. They seem happy and are very pleasant when asked for a photo. They are covered from head to toe to protect themselves from the Sun.

There are statues of the leader, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, all around us to be reminded of him. He lost many if not all of his family members in the earthquake.

He is seldom seen and worshiped from afar. He has a home far up in the mountains and a palace here in the city. The road is blocked for security reasons, but you can see the beautiful structure.

This leader has continued the building of the city as the former leader had done.

We went to the city of the previous leader, Saparmurat Niyazov. It is called Kipchak. That man had a giant mosque built here. It cost $100,000,000.00 to build. Yes, that number is correct. The “Golden Dome” which is 164 feet wide, was lifted in place by helicopter. The building was finished in 2004 and is spectacular.

Saparmurant had his mausoleum built nest to the mosque.

Saparmurat Niyazov, the first president, lived here and wrote his own religious book which was required reading at one time. That time has passed. These countries are not very religious and often the mosques are little used.

The Saudis have spent billions of dollars building mosques here in these countries.

The Islam here is moderate and flexible.

The newspaper is state owned and run. The only people with a pension are state employees. However, the utilities are very inexpensive, about $50.00 U.S. per year per family and the people seem to have decent lives.

As a tourist, it is hard to understand what life here is really like. Are elections held here? No. Are the people free? I’m not sure. Is life better here than in the past? I have many unanswered questions.

There are many new and empty apartments in the city. Why? Most people seem to like having gardens and animals close by. The city is not set up for that lifestyle, so they remain in Russian style buildings with small plots of land nearby.

There seems to be plenty of food available in the markets, unlike the Soviet model where food and other commodities were very scarce under communism.

Do the people have enough money to buy what’s in the markets. I don’t know, but I don’t think the markets would function on a regular basis if they didn’t.

This is a country of fantasy, fantastic beauty and secrets.

I am very glad we came here and would recommend coming to this part of the world to everyone who is interested in history, culture and travel.

We had wonderful accommodations, guides and food. We had no injuries which often cannot be said and no breakdowns of any vehicles. These places are ready for you, so do come and see Central Asia.

P.S. We are off to Iceland and Greenland to try to see the Northern Lights, among other things, in October. We will be on a three week cruise. Safe snd happy travels to you.

Thank goodness we are all so different. Rejoice in the differences and be nice to each other.