Have you ever wonder about the world’s weirdest capital city? When the question arises, many cities came to mind at first, but I think the winner must be Ashgabat, Turkmenistan.
Ashgabat – formerly called Poltoratsk between 1919 and 1927 – is the capital and largest city in Turkmenistan, home to about a million people. It is located on the edge of the vast sands of the Karakum desert, in the western region of this strange Central Asian country.
Although it seems unspoiled and luxurious, most citizens live behind the scenes in much more inadequate conditions. Even though it has a million inhabitants, it is often funnily called the ‘city of the dead’.
The wide, green boulevards are mostly bare, and the scarce cars you see are all white – other colors are forbidden. The buildings are built entirely of shiny white marble. Most of the flat blocks you see are hollow inside, with no real accommodation. It is a shiny facade to convey wealth and beauty.
Many of the sights are also bizarre, with impressive geometry. Eight pointed stars are a common motif, as they are a symbol of Oguz Khagan, a legendary Turkic ruler.
They are not foreign in scale either. Turkmenistan Tower, a TV and communications mast, is the country’s highest structure at 211 meters and has the world’s largest architectural star shape.
Ashgabat fountain has a larger number of fountain pools than anywhere else on earth.
Ashgabat Flagpole was the highest flagpole in the world until 2010, and it has since been moved to fifth place. It is 133 meters high. The cultural center of Alem has the largest covered Ferris wheel globally, which is surrounded by glass and white steel.
In the Turkmen Carpet Museum, you will find massive handmade carpets, one of which is 21 by 14 meters. There is even a gigantic model of the Ruhnama, a controversial book written by a former dictator of Turkmenistan.
As you can see, Ashgabat is the weirdest capital city of a country. It is a place where black cars, dogs, lip-syncing, car radio, ballet, circuses, video games, growing a beard, wearing make-up, and smoking in public are all illegal.
For a few capitals, which are interesting, but not so impressive to be the world’s weirdest capital city. Pyongyang, North Korea, is a city of propaganda that has a lot in common with Ashgabat.
Naypyidaw, the planned capital of Myanmar, is over sixty times the size of Paris in terms of surface area but has less than half the population. It has gone to great lengths to attract Burmese and remains a ‘Ghost City’.
Nairobi, Kenya, a surprisingly modern metropolis with its natural national park, unlike any other city globally, is also among the world’s weirdest capital city. If you have visited Nairobi a couple of times, you will understand that traffic lights are simply for suggestions. Usually, everybody is a runner.
Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, a futuristic city that seems to rise abruptly from the empty steppe. Like Ashgabat, it owes its charming architecture to money from oil and gas reserves.
Malabo, the capital of Equatorial Guinea, is unique because of its location. Instead of being on the mainland of the country, it is located on a small island about 230 kilometers away.