We arrived in Ashgabat at 3 am, having left Dubai at midnight. What's with these times? I can't imagine flying into a city at 3 am for a business meeting. Perhaps business meetings aren't big here?
The airport departure lounge was a pot pourri of different costumes and ethnicities. Cavan and I had fun playing 'pick the country' as we people watched. The women in the photo are wearing traditional Turkmeni costume. A group of them and their husbands had been in Dubai on a shopping trip. TV's, other electrical stuff, shoes, you name it. And some had bought in quantity. As we went through customs we watched as they unpacked boxes and boxes of gear for inspection. Whether they intended to sell it on, who knows. Trading is of course part of this region's history. What was admirable was how prepared they were, both for travel, and for inspection. They all carried large reels of duct tape and box cutters so that they could seal and unseal their parcels at will.
Our hotel is clean and the service courteous, but the amenities are simple.The internet is patchy and Facebook doesn't seem to work. Some sort of censorship perhaps? Carpets are old and threadbare; towels thin and mean, the woollen blanket on the bed likewise. On the plus side, there is a hair dryer! The people are lovely. Genuinely good humoured and happy to help dumb tourists.The Ashgabat circus, in an exotic white and gold circular building, is right opposite our hotel and Cavan and I are hoping to get tickets to go their tonight. The show features Akhal Teke horses, hounds (that look awfully like greyhounds), and eagles. Tomorrow we officially start on our Awfully Big Adventure with a briefing at 10 am, and then we're into full-on tourist mode. Already our hotel room looks like a Chinese laundry with shirts and knickers dripping off the line. With days of camping ahead of us we're trying to keep up with the housekeeping.
The hotel lobby
The magnificent Circus opposite our Hotel
Ladies in traditional Turkmeni costume