March 19, 2004 - April 03,2004
Day 03   Sunday March 21, 2004
Sunday Market  Ashkabad, Turkmenistan
Submitted by
Maria Lunow

*The Tolchka Bazar     *Ashkabad Hippodrome   *Golden Century Park   *Museum  *Muhammed’s Art Gallery *Fashion Show

Ashkabad Sunday Market

Fashion show in Askabad

When we met on the bus, Musa went over the agenda for the day and gave us some interesting facts and information.

We passed a new school that was built for gifted children who come from all regions of the country.  (grades 6 & 7).  This schooling is paid for by the Government.  We also passed an area that was being cleared for a Textile factory complex.  Under the Soviet regime the cotton grown here was shipped to other countries for finishing.

 We passed over the Karakum Canal which is the first, oldest and longest canal (1,100 Km).  It starts in the east from the Amudarya River.  Construction started in the 1950’s and was finished in 1964.  “Water is life for the Turkmen’s needs”.

We passed a number of small farms which Musa calledhe Russians gave a small non-irrigated piece of land to people where they could get out of the city and enjoy country life. 

 We joined a long convey of cars and buses and drove onto the sandy road in the middle of sand dunes. 

We are enjoying Ahal Teke Horse race

The Tolchka Bazar is located out of the city on a huge tract of land consisting of small sand dunes.  This Sunday Market is open 7 am to 1 pmand is a very crowded place and there is always the possibility of pickpockets on the make.  Traditionally people would come to the market to see their friends and catch up on the gossip.  In the past, people would say:  You can find a needle to a camel at the market”; now the saying is “embroidery and jewels to a car”.

Meli warned us that if we were not back on the bus at the appointed time, the bus would carry on with our program and we should take a taxi back to the Nissa Hotel.  The taxi fare would be about $1 U.S.  Meli told us the carpets and jewellelry were to the far left and the animals were located outside the main Bazaar area. 

 We thought the market was very crowded and confusing, although Musa said it was not.  Everyone came back to the bus with treasures they had purchased  While waiting for some of the others to return to the bus we saw a mother and baby camel being led from the market.  (our first camel sighting).We then drove to the Ashkabad Hippodrome to see the horse races.  The Hippodrome was build in 1985 and there is a new one presently under construction.  Turkman sayings:  “When you wake up in the morning say hello to your father then your horse.”  “A horse is the wings of the Turkman”.

Today is the Nowruz 2004 holiday and so the horse races we saw were special ones.  The horses that were in the races were Arabian and Akhaltke.

The Teke Tribe was nomadic and raised camels and the special Akhaltke horses.  Only the best horses take part in these races and gambling is forbidden.  Special prizes consisting of rugs and TV sets were lined up at the winners circle.

 The races were very exciting with the crowd shouting, whistling and cheering the horses on.  The track was very muddy covering the horses and rides alike.  We were sitting in special sears right in front of the winners circle.When we were leaving we went to a corral which was to the side of the entrance where a group of horsemen were doing some drills (similar to the RCMP Rides) with the horses.

 There was also a young boy with a one-year old Tazimeni dog.  The dog had a small head with a long nose; ears that were flaps and very gentle eyes.  His legs were very long and his long tail curled at the end.  Another boy had a Balboban Falcon which was hooded and had a peacock feather on top of the hood.  Both these youngsters cam on the bus with us and we dropped them off in the City. 

 Note:  We passed a Christian Orthodox Church which is one of three is Ashkabad.  During the 70-year Soviet rule religions were forbidden but now Missionaries from many countries are coming here. As we travelled the city’s tree lined streets we passed an amusement park and a fountain which was the roundabout in an intersection. and the Railway Station.  The restaurant where we had lunch was across the street from the railtracks.  The Margiana Restaurant where we had lunch was also a small Guest House.  We were served Orange juice, two salads, Lamb soup, Sturgeon with potatoes.  Tea and sweet cakes.

 After lunch we drove down the Street of Independence where there was a cascade of water flowing down the middle of the street separating the traffic lanes.  To the one side was a beautiful park with a monument of ten horses (one for each year of independence.  We also saw marble apartment houses which were opened on National Flag Day (February 19th). 

 At the Golden Century Park a new policy was declared in year 2000 that the 21st century will be a “Golden Century of Turkmenistan”. There is a massive plan of building taking place in the city.  People who were living on the land where new construction is taking place are offered new accommodation for the price of the land and house less a 50% discount.  We passed by many more beautiful buildings, one was the Ministry of Oil & Gas – this building is referred to as “The Lighter” because of its design.

 The new buildings we passed were made of marble and were very pleasingly landscaped with extensive tree plantings.

We then visited the largest Museum in Turkmenistan which was built six years ago.  It has 16 domes which are all symbolic; the five smallest domes symbolize the five regions of Turkmenistan.  This building was designed and built by a Turkish company.  The President had this building built as a gift to the Turkmenistan people.Our guide, Maya was very informative on the many displays in the museum.  There were many carpets displayed as well as gifts presented to the President and the country by other Governments.The President is well-thought of by the people; he is political as well as a writer and poet.  Many of the books he has written were on display.On the first floor there were displays outlining the different aspects of the country of today.  Note:  Gas, electricity and travel by air are free to all Turkmen.On the second floor there was a map of archeological sites of Turkmenistan and around the room there were displays of artefacts from these sites.

                    Saparmurat Turkmenbachi said:

“Turkmenistan the land where birmens live, is full of history

There is no place on our native land where there wasn’t bloodshed. 

Turkmens ancestors lived on this land and defenced this land.

We must defend the land sodden with blood of our ancestors as an apple of an eye and must know how valuable it is”.

After this tour (5 pm) we drove to the Art Gallery called Muhammed.

 Note:  Under the Soviet rule, Artists and Craftspeople as well as performers were encouraged and given the opportunity to make brochures, videos, calendards, etc. Muhammed’s Art Gallery contained paintings in many styles which he did in the last ten years.Downstairs he had a collection of artefacts from years past.  Tiles, women’s jewellery, purses in which Koran verses were kept.  Guns, knives, swords, garments for women and children.  Icons, horse saddles, hangings, rugs, musical instruments and many many more antiques. 
On our way back to the hotel we passed by the Memorial To The Victims of World War II and National Hero and President Ata Murat Niazor,  who was the father of the present President.

 Note:  All the Monuments, Parks and new Buildings in the city have had generous plancings of trees and other plants; so in a few years I can see that this will be a most beautiful and special city to live in and to visit.

 We went for dinner and Folk entertainment at a private Russian home.  They also gave us a showing of fashions influenced by historical Turkmenistan garments.  The models were very tall (six feet) and willowy.

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