Friday, November 20, 2015

Admiring the National Emblem of Turkmenistan

So last week I was in Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan, for a big Exhibition and Conference on Education and Sports. I was very lucky to be able to participate as it's very difficult to get a visa to for Turkmenistan. It was a very interesting trip, and hopefully won't be my last!

But more on the actual trip another time. I want to write about something I couldn't keep my eyes off while I was there: the National Emblem of Turkmenistan.

Almost everywhere I went, the main auditorium of the Exhibition Hall, various auditoriums or meeting rooms in a couple of universities, the hotel, the airport... there it was, right in from of me. Together with a photo of the President. When more than half the talks you're listening to are in Russian or Turkmen, and the translator isn't always doing a great job, you end up spending a lot of time observing your surroundings. And the more I looked at the Emblem, the more I was sure each element of it had to tell an interesting story. So I asked one of the other participants I met there, a Russian who's quite a expert on Turkmenistan (both subject of his research and has been there 5 times). So here goes (with complementary info courtesy of Wikipedia)!

At the centre: a horse. More specifically an Akhal-Teke horse (apparently it's the previous president's horse Yanardag, born in the Spring after Independence from the USSR in 1991), a breed very important to the once tribal people of Turkmenistan who depended on them for survival (it's now their national animal - by the way: no horse meat on the  menu in Turkmenistan, unlike the other Central Asian countries!). There's a magnificent statue to these horses in town, of which I only got a quick "drive by" photo as I never had time to go back and properly wander around, camera in hand... Next time!