Ashgabat, Turkmenistan: The Strangest City With 80% Buildings Are Made Of Marble

This city is completely over-the-top and bizarre. It reminds me of my time spent in Pyongyang, North Korea in every single way possible. I am here in Ashgabat Turkmenistan, my 178th country.

If you like weird off-the-beaten-path destinations, then this might be my most exciting video yet. Get ready to hear about life in this bizarre post-Soviet Central Asian country.

With less than 10,000 visitors a year check medicine ranks as a seventh least visited country in the world. Why? Because it's extremely difficult and pricey to get in. Much like North Korea, every tourist must be on an organized trip to get the visa. And my private tour is costing me just over a thousand dollars.

Believe it or not, Turkmenistan is one of the wealthiest countries in the region, because they have the fourth biggest natural gas reserve on earth. And what comes as a result, a perfectly constructed capital city called Ashgabat. A completely decorated in the widest marbled you've ever seen. 

It's about 80% buildings are made of marble. It feels like Disneyland in a desert. Within 12 square miles, there are nearly a thousand buildings glistening in over five million cubic meters of imported white marble. In fact, so much marble was used in Ashgabat that it was awarded at Guinness World Record.

The rest of the city is beautiful from the outside. Perfectly manicured gardens, huge boulevards, elegant fountains, and amazingly detailed statues. These statues are kind of freaky; they're all looking at the monument.

When you turn on the TV, propaganda commercial shows off the country in the best way possible.

But the funny thing is the streets are shockingly empty during the day, almost like a ghost town. I'm walking around the middle of downtown Ashgabat. It is just so weird. You got all these white buildings everywhere and these are like monuments staring you. The only people around here are construction workers and soldiers. 

This wedding hall is obnoxiously big and it just doesn't make sense. How could that many people be getting married? 

You get the feeling that someone is watching over your shoulder 24/7, and it's always nerve-racking to take any photos or videos. But I did find the people to be very friendly and quite curious. And most of them do love the camera. On one occasion, I was lucky enough to see people out in the streets. 

Putting the flashiness of the city aside, the people really live a simple life here. Less than 1% of Turkmenistan 6 million residents have internet access. And over 90 percent of all workers are employed by the government. So when I hear that Turkmenistan is constantly ranked rock bottom in terms of corruption, I can't be that surprised.

The former dictator, Saparmurat Niyazov, this guy liked to do things his own way. He renamed all the months based on the names of his family members. He banned Opera Ballet and circuses because he thought that they were too noisy. He only allowed white cars on the roads. And he made it illegal to have pet dogs because he didn't like the smell. 

All of his weird laws have influenced Society in the strangest of ways that will leave you scratching your head. What a strange place...

It gets even stranger with the new dictator. Global News right now is filled with articles that he has gone missing since June. But I figured out pretty quickly that he's certainly around. When I drive to the hotel from the airport, police officer came to us on the street, I pulled over. The President's coming through, so we had to pull over to make way for the president. 

Ashgabat is without question one of the most fascinating and puzzling cities I've ever seen. It really feels unbelievably staged here; I cannot wrap my head around what is real or not. And it blows my mind how the government spends dozens of billions of US dollars to make these white marble buildings behind me that are completely empty.

Source: Drew Binsky

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