#53: Turkmenistan: Homage to Its Leader & Learning a New Calendar
23 August 2002
After a few days in the Caspian Sea Oil Boom Town, Baku, capital of Azerbaijan, I am now in Ashgabat, capital of Turkmenistan. This is the country where the president (who has renamed himself Turkmenbashi the Great, meaning the Chief of all Turkmens, as well as cities, towns and streets after himself) recently renamed all the months and days of the year, including January, after himself and April after his mother.
And yes, I arrived yesterday, which was Sogap-Gun day (Youth Day – that’s the new name for Thursday), 22nd of the month of Alp Arslan (Great Heroes – we call it August elsewhere in the world). I have just gotten the new calendar as well as the English edition of the Rukhnama, a thick book written by the president, which has now been regarded by locals as one of the greatest books ever written in human history, on par with the Bible, Quran, etc. Also visited lots of monuments devoted to the president – most made of pure gold!
24 August 2002
Mary, Turkmenistan: Just flown here from Ashgabat after attending a local birthday party. The flight costs US$7 – if you buy one month in advance, it’s only US$3. Locals pay $1.50. Taxi costs 15 cents in the city. I will visit the ancient city of Merv nearby – destroyed by Gengis Khan 800 years ago. Its height of summer – 45ï¿½C! Back to Ashgabat tomorrow to attend an invitation to dinner at home by a staff of the travel agency and his wife. Very friendly people here.