NEAR ASHGABAT

NEAR ASHGABAT

Kopet Dag (meaning “many mountains”) is an escarpment that runs for 1,500 kilometers (900 miles), mostly along the border between Turkmenistan and Iran. It is jagged and dry and prone to earthquakes, with large dunes running up against them.

Serdar Health Path is a winding trail in the hills south of Ashgabat. The eight kilometers path features prominently in the country's annual "Health Week" . In 2000, former president Saparmurat Niyazov made an example of his entire cabinet, cheering them on as they struggled their way up the path (he was flown to the top in a helicopter. [Source: Alan Taylor, The Atlantic, June 5, 2013]

Firuza (30 kilometers southwest of Ashgabat) is a former hunting reserve used by the Persian royal family. Located in a green valley, it is now a the home of Firuza Palace, the pink mansion where late President Niyazov spent most of his time. It has traditionally been a popular retreat used by people too escape from the heat of the plains. One of the main sights is the “Seven Brothers,” a cluster of seven trees forming a single trunk four meters in diameter.

Turkmenbashi Stud Farm (10 kilometers from Ashgabat) is where you can see some famous Akhal-Teke horses. Horses raised here have been given as gifts to world leaders. Saparmurat Hags Mosque was erected by President Turkmenbashi

Chuli (30 kilometers west of Ashgabat) is a mountain retreat with some run-down holiday camps and a relatively new Turkish-built hotel with a good restaurant. There are some pleasant hikes. One popular destination is 2462-meter-high Erekdag mountain. The road to Chuii follows a gorge with an image of Lenin carved into the rock. Nokhur (150 kilometers from Ashgabat in southwestern Turkmenistan) is in the valleys of the Kopet Dag mountains. The people of Nokhur claim to be direct descendants of Macedonian warriors of Alexander the Great's times,

Nisa

Nisa (15 kilometers west of Ashgabat) is an ancient city that was capital of the Parthian Kingdom between the 3rd century B.C. and the A.D. 3rd century. The Parthians were the great rivals of the Romans in the east. Nisa remained active until is was razed by the Mongols. Situated on a grassy plateau in the foothills of the Kopet Dag, it once contained a fortress with 43 towers, a royal palace and some temples. All that remains now are some mounds, broken up by excavation pits, and the mud-brick remains of two Zoroastrian temples, kitchens, a treasury. a courtyard house with a wine cellar and circular chamber believed to have been a ritual area of a Zoroastrian temple. Artifacts unearthed at the site are now in the Turkmenistan National Museum.

The Parthian Fortresses of Nisa were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007. According to UNESCO: “The Parthian Fortresses of Nisa consist of two tells of Old and New Nisa, indicating the site of one of the earliest and most important cities of the Parthian Empire, a major power from the mid 3rd century B.C. to the 3rd century AD. They conserve the unexcavated remains of an ancient civilization which skilfully combined its own traditional cultural elements with those of the Hellenistic and Roman west. Archaeological excavations in two parts of the site have revealed richly decorated architecture, illustrative of domestic, state and religious functions. Situated at the crossroads of important commercial and strategic axes, this powerful empire formed a barrier to Roman expansion while serving as an important communication and trading centre between east and west, north and south. [Source: UNESCO World Heritage Site, 2007]

Nisa was the capital of the Parthian Empire, which dominated this region of central Asia from the mid 3rd century BCE to the early 3rd century CE. As such it formed a barrier to Roman expansion, whilst at the same time serving as an important communications and trading centre, at the crossroads of north-south and east-west routes. Its political and economic power is well illustrated by the surviving remains, which underline the interaction between central Asian and Mediterranean cultures.

History of Nisa

Nisa was a major trading hub in the Parthian Empire. It was later renamed Mithradatkirt Parthian ("fortress of Mithradates") by Mithridates I of Parthia (reigned c. 171 B.C.–138 B.C.). The region was famous for the fast and beautiful horses. Nisa has been described as the first seat of central government of the Parthians. It is traditionally assumed to have been founded by Arsaces I (reigned c. 250 –211 B.C.) and was reputedly the royal residence of the Parthian kings, although it has not been established that the fortress at Nisa was either a royal residence or a mausoleum. Nisa was totally destroyed by an earthquake, which occurred during the 1st decade B.C.

Traces of human activity dating back to the 4th-2nd millennium B.C. show that long before the beginning of the Parthian Empire the area of Nisa was already colonized by sedentary population. It is believed that there was a large settlement there as early as the 1st millennium BC. According to the legend, during the time of Darius Hystaspes (VI c. BC) settlement became a frontier fortress, which barred the way to invade from the North warlike nomads. [Source: State Committee for Tourism of Turkmenistan]

In the 4th century B.C. Achaemenid Empire collapsed under the Greco-Macedonian armies. Under the Seleucids — successors of Alexander the Great — formed independent states of Bactria, Parthia and Khorezm. The dynamic development of these states is well described in the writings of ancient authors. Some ancient sources, such as Isidorus of Kharax, mention the city of Parthaunisa as an administrative and economic center for the Arsacid dynasty. From their royal residence (Old Nisa) and the adjacent city (New Nisa), the Arsacid dynasty carried out huge conquests over a very large territory stretching from the Indus to the Euphrates. Parthaunisa was divided into two parts by the range of Kopetdag Mountain. One of them is located on the territory of modem Ahal region in Turkmenistan.

It is not until 247 B.C. apamstribe (or parns), became the big association of nomads who lived in the Karakum. It was founded by Arsaces I (reigned c. 250 B.C. - 211 BC), and was reputedly the royal necropolis of the Parthian kings, although it has neither been established that the fortress at Nisa was a royal residence nor a mausoleum. Greek Seleucid governor of the satrapy was killed, Arzak was declared a king of independent Parthia that took the territory of Hyrcania (area southeast of the Caspian Sea), which subsequently arose the first capital of the Parthian Empire — Gekatompily.

Parfavnisa city became the administrative and economic center of ownership of Arsakid dynasty. There was arranged a burial-vault of their first kings. Suburbs of Parfavnisa was surrounded by cob wall 7 kilometers long and the entire area with surrounding villages was also covered by the ring of walls.

The name of the site, Mithradatkert, and an indication of the date of its foundation are known from an inscription written on one of the 2,700 administrative ceramics (ostraka) found at Nisa. Mithradatkert means “the fortress of Mithidrat”, referring to King Mithradat I (174-138 BCE). Under the Mithridates I (174-136 gg. BC) on the site of Old Nisa royal fortress was erected by Mitridatkert (approx. 14 hectares) with 43 towers. From the perspective of the ancient art of the castle is an impregnable stronghold. In the 2nd-1stcenturies BC, in the heyday of the Parthian empire, Nisa achieved the status of royal sanctuary. Possibly there was a necropolis of Arsakids dynasty's members.

In 226 BC, however, the Parthian kingdom collapsed. Ardashir, the Parthian governor-general in Persia at the beginning of the Sassanid dynasty, checked Parthian expansion and conquered their cities and territories. Destruction and diminished populations in Nisa led to its partial abandonment, although it continued to be an important center until the Islamic period (12th-14th century CE).

Nisa Archaeological Site

The ruins of ancient and medieval town Nisa are located in the foothills of Kopetdag mountains in Bagir village. The Parthian Fortresses of Nisa consist of two parts Old and New Nisa, indicating the site of one of the earliest and most important cities of the Parthian Empire, a major power lasted almost 600 years from the mid-3rd century B.C. to the 3rd century AD. Archaeological excavations in two parts of the site have revealed richly decorated architecture, illustrative of domestic, state and religious functions. They conserve the unexcavated remains of an ancient civilization, which skilfully combined its own traditional cultural elements with those of the Hellenistic and Roman west. Situated at the crossroads of important commercial and strategic axes, this powerful empire formed a barrier to Roman expansion while serving as an important communication and trading center between the East and the West, the North and the South. [Source: State Committee for Tourism of Turkmenistan]

Numerous archaeological discoveries made in the mid-twentieth century relating to the 3rd-1st centuries B.C. such as remains of temples, substantial buildings, mausoleums and shrines, many inscribed documents, a looted treasury, many Hellenistic art works, a large number of ivory rhytons, outer rims (coins) decorated with Iranian subjects or classical mythological scenes, monumental clay sculptures, marble statues, ivory ornaments with reliefs, decorations made of metal and terracotta, weapons, utensils, economic and documents (mainly accounting wine products) written Aramaic alphabet in the Parthian language.

According to the opinion of the researchers, the monuments Old and New Nisa, keeping invaluable information about the material culture and art of one of the greatest ancient world power, are the key to the knowledge about Parthian culture. A large number of elements of architectural decor of the buildings of Old Nisa are the unique

The Parthians were displaced by the Sassanids. Parthian culture expert and leading archaeological researcher at Nisa, Dr. V.N.Pilipko, said: “People who spoke the Parthian language, and called themselves the Parthians vanished. But the nation, as such, did not really disappear. Changing its name, language and customs, this nation continues to live on this land and there is a good deal of Parthian blood in the veins of the Turkmens of the time. Successive link of many generations living in the lands of Southern Turkmenistan, more clearly trace through the study of local culture and it largely explains the keen interest of the present population in the culture of ancient Parthia, which sees it as an integral part of its own past.”

Jeitun

Jeitun archaeological site (30 kilometers north of Ashgabat) is located among a sand dune in the Kara Kum Desert). One of the oldest archaeological sites in Turkmenistan, this ancient settlement has been dated to 7200 to 4500 B.C. and is considered as the first proof of agriculture in Central Asia. The excavations at Jeitun show that the Neolithic revolution and the launching of agriculture took place in Central Asia around the same time it did in the Fertile Cresent, Turkey and the Middle East, Western Asia. The people of the Jeitun culture grew barley and two kinds of wheat, which were harvested with wooden or bone knives or sickles with stone blades. At Jeitun blades were found in every house. It can be assumed that almost the entire population participated in farming. [Source: Wikivoyage]

Excavated beginning in 1957 by the Russian archaeologist V.M. Masson, Jeitun covers an area of about 5,000 square meters. It consists of free-standing houses of an uniform ground plan. The houses were rectangular in shape. Each had a large fireplace on one side, a niche facing it, and adjacent yard areas. The floors were covered with lime plaster. The buildings were made of cylindrical clay blocks about 70 centimeters long and 20 centimeters thick. The clay was mixed with finely chopped straw. The settlement consisted of 30 to 35 single room houses. Each house is considered as home for 5 to 6 people. 160-200 people could live here at the same time. They formed a tribal settlement and their economy seems to have been communal, not individual.

A typical one room house at Jeitun occupied an area of only 15-30 square meters. Each house was designed for a single family and not for collective meals. The same layout designed for a nuclear family has been found in other settlements of Western Asia as well. Neolithic settlements like Jeitun consisted of about 30 one room houses. This suggest the tendency of nuclear families to form larger units because of the economic necessity that arose from partial use of irrigation.

Annau

Annau (near the Iran border, 15 kilometers southeast of Ashgabat on the road to Mary) is the primary archeological site for Bactria Margiana, a mysterious civilization that appeared around 2300 B.C. and established large urban centers, built mud-brick fortifications, large buildings and monumental arches, established extensive irrigation systems to grow wheat and barley, and may have developed writing or proto-writing. Nothing remains of the ancient civilization other than artifacts unearthed by archaeologists working at the site.

Annau (also spelled Anau) was reborn as a fortified town in the 15th century when it was known as Bagabad to Silk Road travelers and contained mosques and madrasahs that ranked with those of Bukhara and Samarkand. Unfortunately the entire town was leveled by the 1948 earthquake. Today Annau is regarded as pilgrimage site. Many people visit the new mosque built at the site of the ruined one (See Below) . Here you can see women praying and tearing up pieces of clothing and dolls, believing it will help them have a child.

The ruins of pre-1948-earthquake Annau lie the south side of the road to Mary. There are three mounds at this site. The easiest to spot is the site of the 15th century mosque destroyed by the 1948 earthquake. On and off, Anau has been excavated by a team from the University of Pennsylvania.

Seyitjemaletdin Mosque

Seyitjemaletdin Mosque (in Annau) was erected, according to the interior and exterior inscriptions, in 1456, when Abu-l-Kasim Baber Bahadurkhan ruled in Khorasan (1446-1457). Construction of the mosque was financed by Bahadurkhan’s vizier, Muhammed Hudaidot, who also selected a site of construction–near the grave of his father, sheikh Jemaleddin, a native of Anau. Before that, sheikh Jemaleddin had never been mentioned in the fifteenth-century Sufi sources. But, having examined the inscriptions on the face of the mosque, academician G.A. Pugachenkova proposed that thanks to the polysemantic character of the language the author of the lines managed to immortalize his father. He took the first part of his father’s name–“Jemal” (i.e. beauty)–and used it in the word combination “Dor-ul-Jamal,” which has two meanings: “the house of beauty” and “the abode of Jemal.”

Conceived as a large religious complex, this mosque comprised ziaratkhna (a room for funeral prayers), khanaka (a winter room of the mosque) and several khujras (cells in the madrasah, caravanserai and khanaka). The peculiarity of the building’s composition–asymmetrical left and right wings; vaulted domes, different from one another; spatial lightness of the interior–might be accounted for by its positioning on the descending land surface, next to the former fortress. The square central hall (with the sides of 10.5 meters) was crowned with a dome. In the corners of the mosque there were spiral stairs, heading to the second- and third-level bypass galleries. From the north, the hall had a large vaulted arch, which was embellished with a high and beautiful portal, refined with decoratively cut and polished brick, glazed dark- and light-blue tiles, and panels with the Arabian epigraphy on them. Below the arch there was a mosaic picture of two coiling dragons, heraldically facing each other, and apple tree flowers on the background–ancient local composition and scene.

In later periods, the Seyit-Jemaleddin mosque was partially reconstructed. By the nineteenth century, the subsidence of land had already damaged the building heavily, and during the 1948 Ashgabat earthquake it was destroyed completely. Now, only lower parts of the portal and some fragments of the walls are extant.

Geok-Tepe: the Site a Famous Turkmen-Russian Battle

Geok-Tepe (50 kilometers west of Ashgabat) is the site of an old fortress where a Russian force was defeated in 1879 by Tekke-Turkmen and a larger Russian force slaughtered 15,000 Tekke-Turkmen in 1881 in revenge. About half the tribesmen were killed in the 1881 battle during the charge after gunpowder blasted holes in fortress. The other were killed when they attempted to flee across the desert.

With the Tekke-Turkmen defeated the Russians claimed Merv and Ashgabat in 1884 and the Pandjeh oasis near the Afghan border in 1885 with little resistance. By this time the Turkmen had been largely subdued although some holdouts continued to fight the Russians and Soviets until 1936. The take over of Geok Tepe also marked the end of the Russian expansion into Central Asia. Their ambition of taking over Afghanistan and attacking India was not realized. The Teke were humbled and pacified by their crushing defeat at Geok-Tepe. With so many of their warriors killed, and so much of their wealth stolen, it would be a long time before this once-fearsome tribe would have the power to trouble their neighbors.

During the Soviet era the remains of the earthen fortress were part of a collective farm. After Turkmenistan became independent a memorial was built, housing Saparmurat Khodja Mosque, a US$100 million structure designed by French architects and featuring a central turquoise dome surrounded by smaller turquoise domes and towering pencil-thin minarets. The second-largest mosque in Central Asia, it is a marvelous aquamarine and white structure.

These days, Geok-Tepe is a sleepy little village in Turkmenistan. The inhabitants grow grapes, raise the famous Akhal-Teke horses, and worship at the grand mosque. Just outside of town, the remains of the fortress can still be seen. A small museum next to the walls houses cannonballs, weapons, and other artifacts of the battle that turn up fairly regularly under farmers' plows in this area. Human and horse bones are also sometimes found.

Kow-Ata Cave and Underground Hot Water Lake

Bakharden (100 kilometers west of Ashgabat) is the home of Köw Ata cave, which contains a steamy, hot water lake located 65 meters (200 feet) underground in the Kopet Dag. The lake is reached by climbing down an 800-foot metal walkway with 350 stairs. water is 36 degrees C (97 degrees F) and smells like sulphur and rotten eggs. Locals believe that bathing in the lake is good for health

The water in the lake contains 38 elements, including sulphur, iodine, magnesium, potassium, sodium, sulphate, aluminium, bromine, iron and stibium. Swimming in the water is said to improve blood circulation, soothe the nervous system and treat illnesses such as rheumatism, colds, renal and skin diseases. Temperatures of water in the lake varies from 33 to 38 degrees depending on the place in the lake.

The lake 80 meters long, 30 meters wide and up to 16 meter deep. It is also the closest thing Turkmenistan has to a thermal spa and is a natural monument, established to protect the largest colony of bats in Central Asia. The lake is best visited using a car with a driver. It is about an hour and a half drive from Ashgabat. There is an admission fee. It is recommended that you bring a change of clothing, so you don't smell like sulfur after visiting the lake.

Magtymguly

Magtymguly(211 kilometers west of Ashgabat) is about halfway between Ashgabat and the Caspian Sea. Formerly known as Garrygala and Kara Kala, it is located in the foothills of the Kopet Dag mountain range, and lies in the Sumbar Valley on the Sumbar River, a tributary of the Atrek River. It is regarded in Turkmenistan as a subtropical paradise with flower gardens, fruit trees and fantastic nature. of the subtropics. Sumbar valley is famous for it pleasant climate and greenery but also the lunar landscape of the surrounding mountains and the hospitality of its inhabitants.

Magtymguly is home to about 8,600 people. The ruins of a vast fortress on the river bank is located in Magtymguly, and was used as a base by the Armenian Kings Tigranes I to Tigranes VI. A small museum devoted to the great Turkmen poet Magtymguly Pyragy is located in Magtymguly. The Sumbar valley is famous for its oak trees. One tree that has been there since 1888 is 20 meters high and has a trunk diameter of 4.5 meters.

In Syunt Hasardag Reserve (see Below) you can find Parkhai place with hydrogen sulfide hot spring water has healing properties. There are therapeutic baths and an open swimming pool. About 24 kilometers from Magtymguly is Gerkez village, the birthplace of Magtymguly. Aidere Gorge, about 50 kilometers from the district center, is 30 kilometers long and covers 20 hectares. About 800 species of plants and trees are found here..

Syunt Hasardag State Nature Reserve

Syunt Hasardag State Nature Reserve (east and south of Magtymguly) was nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2009. According to a report submitted to UNESCO: The landscape and environmental conditions of the site are typical of the southwestem part of the Kopetdag mountains, which form the northwestern edge of the Turkmen-Khorasan mountain system. The Sumbar river (the right-hand branch of the Etrek river) divides the site into northern and southern parts. The right bank is 300-1,900 meters in altitude, consisting of wide ridges and canyon-like gorges. In its upper reaches the river valley is narrow with gallery floodplain forests and in some areas there are scattered orchards and small vegetable gardens. The upper river terraces are arid steppe.

“The climate is arid and subtropical with long, dry summers with temperatures of 35-45°C. Precipitation mainly occurs from November to April, but heavy showers occur occasionally in summer. Soils are "serozyems" (grey earth soils) in combination with loamy and "solonetz" areas in the valleys. The Sumbar river is 245 kilometers long, and both its upper and middle reaches - 95 kilometers - lie within the IBA. In the wide middle reaches there are some fields and orchards, private farms and several villages. Private livestock breeding is highly developed and year-round grazing exceeds the carrying capacity of the habitat. Dry wheat and juniper are grown in the cultivable parts of the steppe.

The proposed WH site consists of the following Protected Areas: 1. Syunt Hasardag State Reserve (26500 square kilometers) including the Central unit (134 square kilometers). square kilometers). Remnant patches of the Caspian broad-leaved forests are conserved within the Syunt Hasardag Reserve. This area is known as one of the world centers of wild relatives of cultivated plants - subtropical horticulture crops. Wild progenitors of the woody species pomegranate, fig, apple, walnut, pistachio, pear, dog rose, almonds and cherry are widely distributed here. The flora is also rich in wild relatives of cultivated forms of wheat, barley, rye, oats and other important cereals and legumes. All of them are very important as the historic gene pool for crops.

This Nature Reserve has a unique diversity of wild and native cultivated varieties of almonds, walnut, fig, pomegranate, grapes like nowhere else in the world. This region was identified by Prof. Nikolai Vavilov as one of the seven "Centers of Origin" of cultivated plants (I - South Asian tropical; II- East Asian; 3rd - South West-Asian; 4th - Mediterranean; V - Abyssinia; 6th - Central American and 7th - Indian, or South American). Central Asia is the motherland for soft wheat, bean, pea, fee, hemp, turnip, carrot, garlic, pear, apricot, apple, fig, and others and is important for the in-situ conservation of these species. Their presence, along with other wild crop relatives make this reserve one of the world's natural nurseries of horticulture crops.

The site holds globally and near threatened mammals such as the Persian Leopard Panthera pardus saxicolor (IUCN Red List status Near Threatened NT), Turkestan Lynx Lynx lynx isabellina (NT), Striped Hyena Hyaena hyaena (NT), Turkmen Wild Goat Capra aegagrus turkmenica (VU), Afghan Urial Ovis orientalis cycloceros (VU), Central Asian Otter Lutra lutra seistanica (NT) and Masked Mouse-tailed Dormouse Myomimus personatus (DD).

This site supports threatened breeding bird species such as Cinereous Vulture Aegypius monachus (NT), Saker Falcon Falco cherrug (EN) and Lesser Kestrel F.naumanni (VU). There are also representatives of the Irano-Turanian Mountains biome including See-see Partridge Ammoperdix griseogularis, Eastern Rock-nuthatch Sitta tephronota, Finsch's Wheatear Oenanthe finschii, Variable Wheatear O.picata and Grey-necked Bunting Emberiza buchanani.

Door to Hell Burning Gas Crater

Darvaza Gas Crater (260 kilometers north of Ashgabat near the Derweze village) is fiery, burning gas crater in the middle of the Karakum Desert. The gas reserve found here is one of the largest in the world. Since 1971, natural gas coming from the crater gas been burning continuously day and night. Not far from the burning crater are two more similar sights, but without the flaming gas. At the bottom of one of the craters is light gray, bubbling, liquid mud. In other is an eery - turquoise liquid.

Sometimes called The Door to Hell, the burning crater was created by Soviet engineers. In 1971, they accidentally collapsed a cavern while exploring for gas in the Karakum Desert. The escaping methane was lit, with the intension of quickly burn it off to avoid poisoning nearby villages, but things didn’t work out according to plan and the gas has been continuously burning ever since. In 2004 President Niyazov commented on how ugly the nearby village of Derweze was. Three weeks later the residents were evicted and the village razed to the ground. Many of the displaced now live in yurts in Erbent. Derweze is “a discolored smudge on the desert floor.”

Natasha Geiling wrote in smithsonian.com: “The Darvaza gas crater, nicknamed by locals "The Gates of Hell,"” is renowned for “its sinister burning flames. it....the pit attracts hundreds of tourists each year. It also attracts nearby desert wildlife—reportedly, from time to time local spiders are seen plunging into the pit by the thousands, lured to their deaths by the glowing flames...To visit the Darvaza gas crater, it's best to go at night, when the fire can be seen from miles away. The crater is located about a 4 hour drive from Ashgabat. Tours can be booked through agents in Ashgabat. Alternatively, some companies offer more structured tours of the surrounding area, with the Darvaza crater included (such as this tour, by The Geographical Society of New South Wales).” *-* [Source: Natasha Geiling, smithsonian.com, May 20, 2014 *-*]

How the Darvasa Gas Crater Was Created?

Natasha Geiling wrote in smithsonian.com: “ So how did this fiery inferno end up in the middle of a desert in Turkmenistan? In 1971, when the republic was still part of the Soviet Union, a group of Soviet geologists went to the Karakum in search of oil fields. They found what they thought to be a substantial oil field and began drilling. Unfortunately for the scientists, they were drilling on top of a cavernous pocket of natural gas which couldn't support the weight of their equipment. The site collapsed, taking their equipment along with it—and the event triggered the crumbly sedimentary rock of the desert to collapse in other places too, creating a domino-effect that resulted in several open craters by the time all was said and done. [Source: Natasha Geiling, smithsonian.com, May 20, 2014 *-*]

“The largest of these craters measures about 230-feet across and 65-feet deep. Reportedly, no one was injured in the collapse, but the scientists soon had another problem on their hands: the natural gas escaping from the crater. Natural gas is composed mostly of methane, which, though not toxic, does displace oxygen, making it difficult to breathe. This wasn't so much an issue for the scientists, but for the animals that call the Karakum Desert home—shortly after the collapse, animals roaming the area began to die. The escaping methane also posed dangers due to its flammability—there needs to be just five percent methane in the air for an explosion to potentially take place. So the scientists decided to light the crater on fire, hoping that all the dangerous natural gas would burn away in a few weeks' time. *-*

“It's not as outlandish as it sounds—in oil and natural gas drilling operations, this happens all the time to natural gas that can't be captured. Unlike oil, which can be stored in tanks indefinitely after drilling, natural gas needs to be immediately processed—if there's an excess of natural gas that can't be piped to a processing facility, drillers often burn the natural gas to get rid of it. It's a process called "flaring," and it wastes almost a million dollars of worth of natural gas each day in North Dakota alone. But unlike drillers in North Dakota or elsewhere, the scientists in Turkmenistan weren't dealing with a measured amount of natural gas—scientists still don't know just how much natural gas is feeding the burning crater—so what was supposed to be a few-week burn has turned into almost a half-century-long desert bonfire. *-*

“After visiting the crater in 2010, Turkmenistan's president Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, worried that the fire would threaten the country's ability to develop nearby gas fields, ordered local authorities to come up with a plan for filling the crater in. No action has been taken, however, and the crater continues to burn, attracting unsuspecting wildlife and international tourists. *-*

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Turkmenistan tourism sites, Turkmenistan government websites, UNESCO, Wikipedia, Wikitravel, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Japan News, Yomiuri Shimbun, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Updated in August 2020

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