Ashgabat is located in a picturesque valley at the foothills of Kopet Dagh. It emerged in 1881 first as military fortress not far from a village bearing the same name. In 1885 a railway was built that reached the area. As a result, it turned into a small town.
The brightest page of Ashgabat's history was the fall of Geoek-Tepe fortress during the aggressive colonial war with Russia .
Until 1919 the city was known as Askhabat. In 1921 the city was renamed Poltoratsk. In 1927 the old name in a new transcription -Ashkhabat ("the city of love") was returned to the city. In the 90s there was another transcription - Ashgabat. Owing to its convenient geographical location the city became an important commercial and transportation point. In 1948 the city went through a powerful earthquake and was totally destroyed. According to official sources about 110 thousand inhabitants of the capital died and four five years' time the city was closed for visitation. The restoration of the capital of Turkmenistan was accomplished due to the efforts of all Soviet Union republics. In place of the ruins a fine new city which, alas, has not preserved any historical monuments, grew up. Today it is an important political-administrative and science cultural centre. Various industries are very developed there. There is a university, colleges, research institutions, theatres, museums, and clubs in the city.
The legend of Ashgabat
In the Turkmen folklore the name of the city is linked with the meaning “a city of love”. According to a legend, when Nisa was under the rule Nurahmed, and Anau was under the rule of Pirahmed, Allah put a veto on love. But against the interdiction, the daughter and the son of these governors fell in love to each other. Realizing the threat to their safety, they hid themselves to the desert, until at last, parched with thirst, they came to the mountain range, found a lonely spring, and ran to quench their thirst, but it suddenly had dried. The lovers went further, where they met a mountain river, but no sooner had they fallen to drink, it evaporated. Then the young man dug to reach underground springs, which made Allah angry again, and He sent Azrail, the angel-divider, to them. However, God’s envoy failed to carry out the sentence: having looked at the girl, he fell in love and forgot the mission. And then a spring of the same crystalline purity as love itself gushed out of the ground. They decided to stay here, near the wonderful spring which saved their lives; and after hearing their history other people moved here, too.
In the halls of new National Museum constructed after Independence the most valuable archeological finds related to ancient history of Turkmenistan are displayed. The museum's collection contains dozens of man-made monuments of traditional craft creativity and a folk art of the 17th - 19th centuries. Weaving, embroidery, ceramics, carpet making, jewelry - here is far from complete list of artifacts kept in the museum. In total there are more than 2, 500 exhibits.
The Capital Carpet Museum is considered a unique of its kind in the world. There some hundreds of the best carpets of all times are collected, the oldest of which is dated the 17th century. There is also the biggest carpet in the world which is about 400 square meters and weighs over a ton.
The National Museum of History and Ethnography offers a magnificent collection of ancient artifacts collected from the entire territory of Turkmenistan including the ones found during excavations of Old Nissa.
Among the major landmarks of the capital are also the Arch of Neutrality (1998, height 75 m - the highest structure in Turkmenistan) with a gold statue of Turkmenbashi on the top; the Presidential Palace, the building of Medzhlis, the Academy of Sciences, the Academic Drama Theatre named after Mollahnepes, Bairam-Khan monument, Lenin Square, Mekan Palace, the Conservatory, Alexander Nevsky Orthodox Church (the 19th century), Ertogrulgaz mosque with four minarets and a huge dome.
The basic centre of tourists' attraction is a huge Sunday market "Tolkuchka" (secondhand market) which is famous for variety of goods and bright Turkmen traditions. Stretching for a few kilometers along deserted suburbs of the city, the market draws attention first of all by an opportunity to purchase traditional Turkmen carpets which are brought there from the entire country.
Near Ashgabat the ruins ancient Parthian state's capital Nissa are located attracting tourists, archeologists and historians from different parts of the world.
More useful information on sightseeings in & around Ashgabat: