Turkmenistan in crisis relies on tourism, a lost challenge?

Turkmenistan border

Turkmenistan is probably one of the most loved countries on this blog. It’s being almost unknown gives to this corner of Central Asia a magnetic attraction, it’s strategic position – between Iran and Uzbekistan – makes almost inevitable to cross Turkmenistan when travelling the region by car or motorbike. The impermeability of it’s borders is at the same time its strength and its weakness. Life in Turkmenistan is so much determined by its President’s wishes that is difficult to understand what plans Turkmenistan will adopt to manage the incipient crisis.

Yes, Turkmenistan is in crisis. The fall in oil prices has been a hard blow to the economy of the country. The rate of growth, around 11% between 2010 and 2014, has slowed down considerably. The effects of this situation have been felt by the population through increases in gas, electricity, water and food prices, devaluation of the local currency and straitened state budget. In these circumstances the President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov has started to speak about tourism as a fkey resource for the country economy.

Turkmenistan has a lot of places to see: Darwaza crater, the ancient towns of Merv and Urgench, the remote Caspian areas and many other. However, the visa policy is awful and makes very difficult to enter in the country, issue well known to our readers often writing us looking for help. During last decades tourism in Turkmenistan has literally vanished, falling from 350 thousand arrivals to less than 20 thousand yearly. In Turkmenistan getting sure data is not easy, the authorities very simply say Turkmenistan is the heaviest and happiest country in the world.

In any case, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov has decided that thing need to change criticising the national airline for the lack of routes, ordering the costruction of the biggest airport in Central Asia and singing the anthem of the next Games Indoor and of Martial Arts planned in September 2017. The omnipresence of his leader could be the biggest brake for every development project of Turkmenistan. The Turkmen system is, indeed, a mere sounding box unable to take a whatever decision autonomously.

The beginning year keynote speech of the President has set ambitious goals for the country, a speech held before a government dismissed just a few days later by Berdimuhamedov himself. Meanwhile the economic crisis doesn’t diminish, costing Yashigeldy Kakayev now former minister for Energetic Affairs his job. Russia has stopped to buy Turkmen gas in January, China ha reduced by half the project of an important pipeline (whose earns, anyway, will cover previous loans to Turkmenistan) and Iran after the lifting of sanctions is nowadays a fierce competitor.

In such a situation is obvious the necessity to diversify the country’s revenues, the first thought goes to tourism as the sector to focus on. Yet, Turkmenistan has not the historical heritage of Uzbekistan and has not the landscapes of Tajikistan, without considering the complacent isolation in which has locked up itself to enjoys its petrodollars. Now things have changed, the Turkmen eccentricity so well represented by the capital Ashgabat has to attract more than a few bold travellers, now are needed concrete plans and realism far from the personality cult.

As stated above, Turkmenistan is a country worth to visit but is really risking to became prisoner of itself and of its autocratic regime. Travelling in the Karakum Desert to reach the Door of Hell is a stunning emotion, so far as to observe puzzled the marbles of the capital city or to discover Avaza transformed in Las Vegas. Despite proclamations, for the time being Turkmenistan remains almost impenetrables just as its borders, the same borders should be crossed by the so coveted tourists.

Image source: https://jamestown.org

Islamic threats in Central Asia

ishkek_kyrgyzstan

Islam in Central Asia

Written on Italian language for East Journal

The New Year’s attack in Istanbul not only claimed so many lives, it also splashed across the screens all over the world a region unknown to many people: the Central Asia. The Turkish authorities identified the person responsible in a Kazakh first, then in a Kyrgyz and finally in an Uzbek. They detained a lot of suspects in the Zeytinburnu city district, mostly inhabited by people of Central Asian ethnic background. An Islamic threat from Central Asia republics actually exist? Perhaps there isn’t an answer and this it’s just the umpteenth spectre roaming valleys and steppes of that region. Altro

A Journey into Xinjiang, in the footsteps of the screaming demons

18184900923_1df5f55104_z

Towards the Kizil Grottoes

There is no point in denying it; on this blog we love Xinjiang a lot and we have often written about it. This Chinese region links two very different civilizations: proper China and Central Asia. Xinjiang is perhaps one of the most evocative places around the world, for its History – of here the Silk Road passed – and for its being crossroad of peoples and cultures. Xinjiang is a region not so simple to travel in, but able to uncover a multitude of surprises to everyone adventuring in its discovery. On the routes of ancient caravans and treasure seekers, a land that will enter directly in your soul, overcoming it. Altro

A journey into Turkmenistan: the hidden madness of Central Asia

IMG_5665

Ashgabat – A view of the city centre

There are places surrounded by an aura of legend. Places calling to mind confused pictures when named, as if their existence was not real; one of these places is Turkmenistan. Speaking about Central Asia to mention this country is often a way to impress the interlocutor, but who travelled there knows Turkmenistan is really more than a catchy name: is a wonderful country where the contradictions of Central Asia blow up under the sun making the Karakum Desert red-hot. Wherever you go, in Turkmenistan you are pressed by the desert and the burocracy, nowadays a spoof of the past Soviet control. Here mankind and nature flaunt their excesses. Altro

A journey into Kyrgyzstan, highlands between tradition and modernity

IMG_5936

Alpine lake in Kyrgyzstan

Visiting Kyrgyzstan is a memorable experience. The most democratic country of Central Asia has many natural wonders to offer the visitors. Kyrgyzstan is inhabited by semi-nomadic populations, travelling throughout the country according to season, so they can use the best grasslands for their livestock. The old Kyrgyz customs can be seen everywhere in the country, but at the same time you can find the signs of the progress, especially in Bishkek, the capital city. Kyrgyzstan has several mountain chains forming a lot of charming valleys. The landscape diversity of the country is really huge; everyone can discover his Kyrgyzstan to love. Altro

A journey in Kazakhstan, where everything can happen

IMG_6031

Kazakh Landscape

Kazakhstan is a Central Asian country we’ll heard about more and more in the future. Kazakhstan, venue for the next Expo scheduled for 2017, is the more developed country of Central Asia, accordingly the most expensive. Kazakhstan is also the ninth largest country on the earth; this allows the country to have really a lot of different natural and human environments to visit: lakes, rivers, steppe, forests and deserts, but also nomadic populations and a XXI century style capital. We cannot list everything Kazakhstan offers! Altro

A journey to Tajikistan, in the heartland of Eurasia

IMG_5785

Tajik landscape

Some trips shall be organised carefully to avoid wasting time once you arrive. This is the case of Tajikistan, a distant country where moving is not easy and requires a good capacity of adaption. The traveller, in return, will live a memorable experience among majestic natural landscapes and a harsh daily life that forged the various peoples living in Tajikistan, a country has always been a crossroads of empires and cultures. Tajikistan is really the throbbing heart of Eurasia, whose beats are characterised by the earthquakes often affecting more remote and isolated areas. Altro

A journey to Uzbekistan: following the ancient trade routes

IMG_5710

The Mir-i-Arab Madrasa – Bukhara

Uzbekistan is maybe the easier Central Asian country to visit, far from the crazy bureaucracy of Turkmenistan, very less remote than Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan and perhaps not dispersive as Kazakhstan is. Further being relatively easy to reach, Uzbekistan houses many places worth to visit. Some of them remind us to the famous Silk Road, others to a recent past when the country was member of USSR. Samarcanda and Bukhara are the most suggestive cities, but into Uzbekistan you can find really much more. A journey that must be done! Altro

Rethinking the Silk Road, a review

711 Jayuguan

Military garrison in Gansu – China

Restaurants, hotels and a lot of travel agencies, the realities referring to the Silk Road are multiples, often with a scenario of deserts and camel caravans. But this image could be far from the reality of that group of trade routes we call Silk Road. Questioning the very existence of these trade routes is a fine book written by Valerie Hansen, teacher of Chinese and world history at the University of Yale. We are speaking of The Silk Road, a new history, also in the title deviating from the existent literature on the topic. Altro

Islam vs. Islam. War on terror and ethnic clashes in Central Asia

Sherdor madrasa in Samarkand – Uzbekistan

The Twin Towers attack has not been an American tragedy, but a watershed in the worldwide history as well. The USA reaction has determined a series of fundamental changes in international affairs. In several areas in the world the radical Islamist terrorism has been identified as the enemy, real or presumed it was. This is particularly the case of Central Asia, where the fight against the radicalism grafted itself onto a complex relation between religion and ethnicity in the construction of the national identity. Altro

Voci precedenti più vecchie

Flickr Photos