- Location: Central Asia
- Capital: Ashgabat
- Language(s): Turkmen, Russian
- Population: 5,578,465
- Total Area: 488,100 sq km
- Currency: Turkmen New Manat
- Curious Alcohol Fact: Vodka is widely available despite the fact that more than 90% of Turkmen are Muslims.
- Annual Average Liquor Consumption Per Capita: 4.63 liters
- Most Popular Drink(s): Green tea, vodka, yoghurt, beers
Turkmenistan is situated in Central Asia and is the second largest in the region, with Kazakhstan being the only larger country. The country was one of the constituents of the defunct Union of Socialist Soviet Republics, until its independence in 1991. Turkmenistan shares borders with Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Iran and Afghanistan. The Caspian Sea (the largest inland lake in the world) lies to the west. Like its neighboring Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan is rich in natural resources and has some of the largest deposits of natural gas in the world. Population density is low and much of the country is covered by the harsh Karakum Desert (Garagum or Kara-Kum), which is one of the largest sand deserts in the world. The capital city is Ashgabat (also called Askhabad) and is located in the southern part of the country.
An overwhelming percentage of the citizens (more than 85%) are ethnic Turkmen. Other groups in the country are Russians, Uzbeks, Kazakhs, Tatars, Balochis (Baluchis), Azeris and Armenians. Prior to the time it became part of the USSR, Turkmens were divided into clans and tribes but now, they are very united and are very proud of their nationhood, and much of this can be attributed to the late President Saparmurat Niyazov, the first president of the country fondly called Turkmenbashi (father of the Turkmen). The official language is Turkmen while other languages spoken are Russian and Uzbek. More than 90% of all Turkmen are Muslims and there is a considerable number of Christians and followers of the Baha’i faith.
Although I discovered that food in Turkmenistan is quite similar to what obtains in other parts of Central Asia, the Turkmen have their own distinct touch. One meal that is quite common in various parts of the country is plov, which I also ate in Tajikistan. Plov is made using rice, meat and chopped carrots. Tasting plov just once will make you appreciate the culinary skills of the Turkmen. There is also the shashlyk and is made from chunks of mutton that have been spiced and grilled. During my stay in the country, barely a day passed without my enjoying a plate of shashlyk and a jug of warm milk. The combination is simply irresistible.
By far, the most popular drink in Turkmenistan is green tea, and it is consumed in both the urban and rural areas. It is like a Turkmen family is never in short supply of tea. Tea is called chai and you will always be given cups of hot tea. For those in search of something stronger, there is vodkain almost every local bar and restaurant. You can also try out gatyk, a creamy and yummy yoghurt.
Your visit to the land of the Turkmen is not complete without visiting some places. As a lover of the desert, I followed a pack of nomads on a hike across the sandy Karakum Desert, and it was fun. In the capital city of Ashgabat, there are various monuments and parks to be visited.
Some of the most popular sports in Turkmenistan include football, rugby and skiing. If you are also into tennis, you will find Turkmenistan very attractive.
- During the reign of the late President Saparmurad Niyazov, Turkmenistan was one of the few countries in the world with a president for life.
Story By World By Shotglass
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Special thanks to our contributors:
Adebayo Ahmed Adebola (Ilorin, Nigeria) for story editing
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