Ashgabat's Tolkuchka Bazaar - trading in the spirit of the old Silk Road
A modern city and chief beneficiary of Turkmenistan’s oil boom, the country’s capital is striking in its orderliness. With the Kopet Dag Mountains an impressive backdrop, Ashgabat’s neat-as-a-pin avenues and grand boulevards roll out, golden domes of imposing mosques gleam while soldier-guarded statues and enormous fountains sparkle. Sunday’s Tolkuchka Bazaar, then, comes as a welcome jolt of the frenetic and chaotic, a vast sprawl of stalls across the desert floor of the city’s fringe, with half of Turkmenistan happily shopping and socialising the day away. Everything’s for sale here – whether you’re after a caravan of camels or a new mobile phone – and the market is definitely the place to both pick up souvenirs (it might just be the world’s finest rug and carpet megastore)and to mix with the locals, as gregarious and welcoming a people as you could hope to meet.