Turkmenbashi is a port city, located in Balkan welayat on the coast of the Caspian Sea. A ferry, which covers 270 km long distance, links the city with Baku on the western coast. Till 1993 the city was called Krasnovodsk, which in reality was a translation of local place name “Kyzyl-Su”. In 1993 it was renamed after the first President of Turkmenistan Turkmenbashi Saparmurat Niyazov. According to the census of 2005, the population comprises 68 thousand people. Among developed industries there are oil-refining, food (including fishing industry), light industry here, and there are oil refinery and ship repair factories, Memorial museum of 26 Baku commissars, Museum of local history in the city. There are “Serdar”, “Turkmenbashi”, “Tolkun”, “Awaza” hotels. Turkmenbashi city is primary port and gate of Turkmenistan in the Caspian Sea, while “Awaza” Tourist zone is the main recreation area of the country.
The city is important as transport junction, formed by sea port with ferry terminal, railway and airport with runway, which can receive any type of aircrafts. Also at present there is being constructed a new airport, railway and multiline express highway Ashkhabad -Turkmenbashi.
History of Turkmenbashi
Turkmenbashi is relatively young city. It was founded in 1869 by the Russian expedition led by lieutenant-colonel Nikolay Grigoryevich Stoletov. Exactly 140 years ago in October Russians took to the open sea and directed to this place in order to found a city on the coast of the Caspian Sea. But casually there was heavy storm and all vessels were scattered in the sea. Therefore, each vessel arrived in Krasnovodsk bay at different times. The first vessel moored to Muravyev bay on 31 October, the second one - on 3 November and the third one - on 6 November. This is the reason why the date of foundation of Krasnovodsk city is a disputable issue: each of these three dates may be considered remarkable and be chosen as date of foundation of a new wonderful city of Turkmenistan. Here on the wild coast of the Krasnovodsk bay it was decided to establish a fortress - outpost. This bay seemed to constructors as the most favourable place for location of a new city, as it has almost never frozen and is defended against strong winds from every side. As early as the times of Peter the First these places were researched and described by associates of the head of the first expedition of Duke Bekovich-Cherkasskiy. A new fortress was founded in this new place. Only blockhouse battery preserved from that building, where local museum is situated nowadays.
As many other centres of the state, Krasnovodsk was founded thanks to Russians, who occupied these Central Asian territory. So, sailors disembarked on the coast, commenced building here not only a settlement, but a whole system of trade, economic and cultural relations with local Turkmen tribes.
Today attention of tourists in Turkmenbashi can be attracted not only with modern buildings, which are raised actively, but also with some old buildings and structures, which are able to tell about the past of the city.
Each city has its own history, keeps ancient secrets of being, and undoubtedly, Turkmenbashi is not exception to this historical rule. Unfortunately many old buildings were not conserved in this territory. The main reason of this is probably some certain circumstances such as expansionist and defensive wars, which destroyed everything on their way, leaving nothing but heap of ashes. But perhaps the reason is the people themselves, who could not do even a little - preserve their heritage transmitted from their ancestors, inherently from their own forefathers; perhaps it occurred because somebody did not realize the historical value and attractiveness of the antiquity. Who knows? And who is to be judged? But main task today is to preserve at least the remained. Especially as nowadays Turkmenbashi city pretends to become huge tourist centre of the country. And to this end it has all requisites. In the meantime the city lives for a future, which can open towards it, for the time when it will achieve assigned tasks - to become the second Antalya and even something greater. Certainly the most favourite places to see among tourists are ancient historical monuments of the past. But everyday such places remain fewer. The past of the country inevitably drives to nowhere. In the place of remnants of the old city new buildings - modern hotels and administrative buildings - are being erected. Certainly such measures, taken by the state, cannot be ignored, because Turkmenbashi is a modern city of modern state, which also should develop, move forward, not living only with the memory of the past. But in any case this issue is a double-edged sword, when any decision will not be welcomed by the masses, this is human nature.
Any seaside city always begins from railway station and seaport. Railway station of Turkmenbashi in Moresque style was built in 1895-96, but unfortunately neither the architect nor constructor has been identified. The building of the station is one of the most beautiful buildings in the railway system of Central Asia. Square near the railway station is close to Monument of soldiers died during the war. Trade seaport in Turkmenbashi has developed rapidly. Tens of wharfs were constructed. Recently original building of “Turkmendenizderaellary” Port administration in a form of a vessel in the sea.
Recently the construction of a new international seaport has been planned. To date Turkmen vessels developed many sea routes, up to sea gates of Gibraltar. And the Port itself is also rapidly developing. Frontal modernization of portal cranes and long-distance vessels is being carried out. Radical reconstruction of port installations, logistic centres and oil terminals is being realized. A powerful autocrane of “Libher” German production with computer management and carrying capacity of about 500 tonnes has been operating with the increase of volumes of transportation by sea. Such autocrane is a pride of any port of the world. “Komacu” autotrucks and “Mazmany” 20-tonn trucks operate in freight terminals with the size of 5000 cubic meters, while “Kalmar” 40-tonn autoloaders operate in transportation of heavy maritime containers.
New port, which is constructed in accordance with modern international standards, will receive both foreign vessels and motor vessels for sea cruises, yachts and other ships, with which the National Fleet of Turkmenistan will be enlarged.
In 1951 a big complex of the Palace of Culture of oil industry workers was constructed. It was built among others by Japanese war prisoners.
The main pride of Turkmenbashi city is sea. Every visitor - foreigner or local resident - fell in love with it. Such a wonder of nature cannot leave anyone indifferent.
Turkmenbashi-Krasnovodsk is indeed unique and beautiful city. If you decide to visit Turkmenistan, a tour to this city should be first in your list of activities.
Places of interest of Turkmenbashi
Awaza is dramatically developing seaport, which is situated in 12 km to the west of the city centre.
Parau-bibi Mosque. Small white Parau-bibi Mosque is a hole place of pilgrimage of Muslim women. It stands alone on one of Kopetdag rocks.
There is an interesting legend related with the history of establishment of the mosque. According to the legend, Parau-bibi was a beautiful Turkmen girl, who lived in one of the villages. Once she was promised to be farmed out to advancing enemies. Rescuing, she escaped to mountains and prayed. Then the rock move apart and hid Parau-bibi forever. The mosque emerged in that certain place. There is a curved stairway leading to the mosque. On the way one can see imprints on the rock left by Parau-bibi: imprints of knee, elbow, forehead and fingerprint. Today the small mosque is visited by hundreds of women, who ask Parau-bibi - patroness of pregnant women and babies - to help save their beauty, to get good husband and many children.
Also according to legend, some crescent-shaped stones laying aloof were slices of watermelon thrown by Parau-bibi in panic to approaching enemies. By tradition, young women tread on these stones. If a stone begin revolving, everything will be good. If a stone doesn’t revolve, it means that you should try it next year, coming back to these wonderful places.
Shir-Kabir Mausoleum. In 6 km from Dekhistan there is an ancient burial Mashad - Muslim necropolis with famous Ali ibn Sukkary or “Shir-Kabir” Mausoleum located in the centre. Monument relates to constructions of prestigious Serakhs architecture school and dates back to 10 century. Walls of the building from square adobe brick were decorated from the foundation to the dome by carved ganch with curl, foliature and kufi inscriptions, and painted in blue, red and pistachio-green colours. “Shir-Kabir” is also called Mosque “on wooden columns”. It is the oldest preserved mosque in the territory of Turkmenistan. And unique carved mikhrab (prayer house) oriented towards Mecca consisting of three niches, inscribed into each other, indicates that the mausoleum was also used firstly as mosque, not only as burial vault.
Unfortunately, “Shir-Kabir” repeatedly was under reconstruction, there have been preserved some elements of décor of 10 century in its interior. Its inner decoration still has impress of greatness and beauty. This place also a hole place for pilgrims, who after visiting it affirm that after Mecca it is the only place on the earth, blessed by Allah.
Tasharvat Caravan-serai. Picturesque remnants of Tasharvat Caravan-serai are located in 38 km fro Balkanabad city - capital of Balkan welayat. During existence of the Great Silk Road Caravan-serai was important to passing caravans, which stopped here on their way of long travel.
The building of the caravan-serai is rectangular fortification with stone wall, inside of which there were remnants of dwelling-houses. There was an elm grove with 100 trees next to the caravan-serai. First mentioning about Tasharvat fortification were found out in 1871-1872. Archeological researches showed that at the end of 19 century the building was still inhabited.
Dekhistan. Dekhistan is clay, arid plain in the south-west of Turkmenistan close to the Caspian Sea. The place was not always such unpopulated and imperceptible. Some time during the period of its prosperity, here the life was in full swing, gardens blossomed and fields were green, encompassed with life-giving waters of rivers. In the third millennium B.C. this territory was actively developed by first farmers arrived to these lands, numerous Turkic tribes – sakas, massagetaes, eftalites began arriving in 3-6 centuries in the oasis irrigated by the Atrek river. But the most powerful tribe union was led by dakhs (where the name of place come from), who created huge fortified strongholds and settlements (Shadur-kala, Akga-kala).
Misrian - site of ancient settlement, situated in the territory of Dekhistan, is its largest historical monument. Only ruins of this huge settlement were preserved till today, but even researching them we can say that it was a place of high level of cultural development in its time. The settlement consisted of shakhristan (city citadel), rabid (outskirt districts), encompassed from every side with blocks of craftsmen. True size of the ancient city has not been determined yet, as there is a little data preserved about it. In 10-13 centuries citadel was embarked with huge fortified wall, which was protected by two lines of patrol men. Misrian can be considered centre of craftsmanship. The proof of this is remnants of hundreds of workshops, which produced high-quality bricks, bronze kettles, lamps, other items of metal, excellent faience, glazed ceramics. The latter amazes with richness and highest artistic level of ornamental and pictorial paintings. Various items of glass were also produced in a big variety, master-jewelers created their masterpieces of precious metals and distinguished with their high professionalism and refined taste in artistic stone working. In addition, there were also explored then perfect system of water-supply, numerous bathhouses, city sewage system in Misrian, which is the sign of developed urban culture.
Relatively preserved monuments of Dekhistan are two 20-metre minarets. It is interesting that located in 120 meters from each other, they constructed with interval of 200 years according to the preserved inscriptions.
From one Cathedral mosque probably remained only two portals with tremendous rich décor of vegetable-epigraphic style with usage of polychrome high-quality glaze. During the period of Khorezmshakhs the city experienced its rapid prosperity, but later was completely destroyed by Mongols. In 15 century the city perished forever.
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