Turkmenistan's capital city, Ashgabat, is one of the world's fastest expanding cities and certainly one to keep an eye on in the future. The city's population is growing rapidly and already totals over a million. Turkmenistan's rise to prominence comes on the back of one of the globe's largest reserves of natural gas, fueling one of the strongest economic growths on the planet. Ashgabat is a little over 100 years old, making it one of the youngest capital cities, and it is certainly one of the most exciting too.
The Ashgabat International Airport serves the city and international flights are available to India, United Kingdom, Germany, Turkey, United Arab Emirates and Russia, among others. The airport is just 10km north-west of the capital, an easy trip for foreigners living in Ashgabat.
A pair of intercity bus stations help to transport the city's population, with Archman, Dashoguz and Turkmenabat all reachable by bus. Bus is the main public transport in Ashgabat, with over 60 different lines covering the city. Ashgabat also has a station on the Trans-Caspian Railway line, which runs from Turkmenbashi to Türkmenabat.
The Ashgabat Cable Car is the only cable car system in operation in Turkmenistan, having opened in October 2006. It transports passengers from Ashgabat to the Turkmen-Khorasan Mountain Range.
Ashgabat's highway infrastructure is considered to be extremely poor, even compared to other capital cities in the east of Europe. Large potholes are extremely common and outside of the city center itself, livestock is regularly spotted crossing roads. Turkmenistan pedestrians are also notorious for stepping out into the road without looking, so driving in Ashgabat is a challenge.
Ashgabat is a very sporty city and it is the host city of the 2015 V Asian Indoor Games and Martial Arts, while it has also hosted the Asian Indoor Games in the recent past. Football is one of the main sports in Ashgabat and the city has four clubs that play in the top division of the Turkmenistan league, Ýokary Liga.
Among the most important cultural sites in Ashgabat are the Turkmen Fine Arts Museum and the Turkmen Carpet Museum, while the city is also home to the Ashgabat National Museum of History, which has artefacts dating all the way back to the Parthian and Persian civilizations.
The city itself is very green and expats living in Ashgabat have a wide range of choice for open air parks and gardens to visit, with the Botanical Garden perhaps the best of them. One of the most popular tourist attractions in the city is its version of Disneyland, the World of Turkmenbashi Tales amusement park. Altyn Asyr Bazaar in Choganly is one of the best places to go shopping in Ashgabat.
Ashgabat is currently listed in the Guinness Book of Records as having the world's highest concentration of white marble buildings and the city's architecture is generally stunning. Many buildings in Ashgabat are also notable, such as the Star of Oguzkhan, the Tower of Turkmenistan, the Alem Cultural and Entertainment Center and the Ashgabat Flagpole, which is the world's fourth tallest free-standing flagpole.
Expatriates living in Ashgabat may be targeted by opportunistic thieves if they appear as though they may be wealthy, but crime levels in the city, and indeed throughout most of Turkmenistan, are not particularly high.
Internet access is quite limited in the city and it is expected that security officials are monitoring electronic communications. In fact, plain clothed security officers are present all over Ashgabat, especially around the grounds close to the Arch of Neutrality. The Arch features a statue of the former Turkmenistan President Saparmurat Niyazov and is thought to be made of pure gold.
Expats living in Ashgabat should take care when taking photographs in public as photographing government buildings is strictly prohibited - those caught may be asked to delete their photos.
It is also important to keep documents such as identification and passports to hand at all times and it is worth noting that Turkmenistan is in an active seismic zone. The most recent quake occurred in December 2000 and many buildings in Ashgabat were damaged as a result.