The Ashgabat Gazette Issue 45


Above, a Teke "Gul" [design]. In this instance, the usual orange of the upper right and lower left part of the design is here replaced by a light brown.

--Monday, 25 January 99-- $1 = 15,000 manat
One of the locals in the ministry came buy to ask if I was interested in buying a Teke carpet from a friend of his. I looked at it and, since the price was right ($100 for 1.3 by 2 meter carpet) and it was my first standard Teke design carpet, decided to buy it. Now I have to go through the shipping experience again.

An expat made an interesting point to me recently about the number of families that are dependent for him for their income. He counted five: his landlord, his translator, his driver, his guard, his housekeeper and his cook. For me the list is shorter: my landlady has a job and derives extra income from the apartment, I use Ed's driver but my translator is mine indeed. I have no guard, but there is a woman who comes in to clean twice a week. I guess I am making a smaller impact on the economy than the expat.

--Thursday, 28 January 99-- $1 = 16,000 manat
I asked about a very small collection of graves that had been located very close to the Neutrality Arch but which had been moved without notice to an unknown location. I was told that they were of people famous in the Soviet era. Apparently there was at least one First Secretary and possibly the woman who first took of the veil and burned it publicly. This happened in the 1920s and was a forerunner of the bra-burnings of the 1960s. Apparently in the new era of independence, these five or six people were the heroes of a previous time and of no importance now.

Today's issue of the City newspaper, Asqabat, had a picture of a model for a monument to the country's Independence. It looks like a cross between Chichenitza and the Neutrality Arch. The structure is basically a series of six square one-story buildings set one on top of the other with each addition smaller than the one below. At each corner is a steep, narrowing staircase that rises to the sixth floor.

On the top is a round platform supported by columns and a smaller round platform on top of that. And crowning it all is a glittering statue of --you guessed it -- Turkmenbashi!

This is just a proposal but the tender for design drawings has been announced so the government intends to proceed. About the only speculation is where to put it. On person thought it might be put out near the airport so people arriving could be appropriately impressed by it.

At midday, I went to the Carpet Museum Store and photographed some of the basic designs for my web page. I bought a Yomut carpet for $45 that I swear was priced at $25 last week and I don't think the price changed.

This afternoon I started sneezing a lot; I could feel some sort of illness (probably the cold Ed caught from Roustam) coming on so I wanted to have an easy evening. I answered emails, finished off my carpet pages, looked at TV (saw a strange special on Laurel and Hardy) and went to bed. Slept well but wanted more sleep in the morning.

--Friday, 29 January 99--
Went with the driver at 10 am over to the dungeon under the Carpet Museum to have the carpet certified that I bought from a local friend. It turns out that the won't be there today until three o'clock. Go figure.

I went back at 3 PM and the carpet experts were there. The driver measured the carpet and the experts hardly seemed to notice it. They devoted their energies to filling out the form allowing me to pay some money to export this treasure.

Today we had a meeting with an official in City Hall. We were told that that it cost 283 manat for one kilowatt of heat and that the population pays 10 manat per square meter of heated area with the difference subsidized by the central government. He remarked that very often the money appropriated by the central government was not enough to meet costs.

He went on to say that much of the existing infrastructure is obsolete and referenced the water supply pipes which he described as being 40% to 50% in critical condition. There is no multi-year plan to deal with any of this or the other issues.

He told us that water consumption in Europe averaged 125-150 liters per person but in Ashgabat it is 1,000 per person. He has asked for projects to deal with problems but is told "there is no money."

Asked about priorities, he said, "We have multiple priorities: roads, heating systems, waste collection and recycling." Also the water system and the sewer system. Of the latter, he said the city has no treatment plant. "We let nature treat it."

He added an insight: The president knows all these things because he was once the Mayor of Ashgabat.

A Virtual Tour of Turkmenistan
© 1998-99 Joe Kelley