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Turkmenistan: Arch of Neutrality

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Arch of Neutrality | Turkmenistan | Asia

[Visited: June 2010]

When we arrived in our hotel room in downtown Ashgabat after a long day, the first thing we saw when we stepped on our balcony on the fifth floor was a golden statue of Niyazov. It had its arms stretched out, flying a big cloth, or flag, behind him, and seemed to be watching over the city below. As it was getting darker, the arch below the statue was lit, changing colour from green, to yellow, to pink, blue... The statue is the icing on the cake of the Arch of Neutrality, built to commemorate the official Turkmen position of neutrality in world politics. We wondered what it would look like the next day.

Picture of Arch of Neutrality (Turkmenistan): View over Ashgabat from the Arch of Neutrality

Strangely enough, the next morning, the first thing we noticed was that the position of the statue on top of the Arch of Neutrality had changed completely! Then we remembered - it is devised in such a way that it revolves on top of the arch, always looking at the sun. But who knows, Turkmenbashy might have wanted people to believe that the sun was actually following the movements of his own statue? Fact is, that the arch took a new identity during the day. Later that day, we walked to the Arch of Neutrality and took the elevator up to the first floor. Since the arch is a tripod, this elevator was actually one traveling diagonally, which was a slightly weird sensation. Here, and inside the Arch of Neutrality itself, we noticed that decay was setting in everywhere - even though the Arch was built only in 1998.

Picture of Arch of Neutrality (Turkmenistan): Purple lights on the Arch of Neutrality

Once inside the main building of the Arch of Neutrality, we could take another elevator to reach the viewing platform. Knowing we were right under the golden statue we had seen from afar, was as exciting as it was frustrating that there was no way we could see it from here. Instead, we enjoyed the view over the sea of totalitarian architecture spreading below in all directions. The ministries of Fairness and Defence, but also theatres, the Earthquake Monument with a golden baby Niyazov, and a World Trade Centre were all close to the Arch. We could also see the many other buildings being built here, the wide avenues giving grandeur to the city - the large number of cranes jutting out of the bed of golden domes and marble palaces promised yet many more monstrous buildings to come. When we walked away from this focal point of Turkmen pride, we wondered if it was really true that the new president had marked the Arch of Neutrality for destruction.

Picture of Arch of Neutrality (Turkmenistan): The centre of Ashgabat seen from the top of the Arch of Neutrality
Picture of Arch of Neutrality (Turkmenistan): Traffic driving under the Arch of Neutrality
Picture of Arch of Neutrality (Turkmenistan): Golden statue of Turkmenbashy, or Niyazov, on top of the Arch of Neutrality
Picture of Arch of Neutrality (Turkmenistan): View of the World Trade Complex from the Arch of Neutrality
Picture of Arch of Neutrality (Turkmenistan): View from the Arch of Neutrality on one of the many buildings
Picture of Arch of Neutrality (Turkmenistan): Independence square seen from the Arch of Neutrality
Picture of Arch of Neutrality (Turkmenistan): Monument for the earthquake of 1948 next to the Arch of Neutrality
Picture of Arch of Neutrality (Turkmenistan): Skyline of Ashgabat is partly defined by cranes
Picture of Arch of Neutrality (Turkmenistan): View from the Arch of Neutrality: Theatre

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