Baton of horse ride dedicated to Asian Games – 2017 was taken up by Balkan velayat – picturesque land of plenty with ancient history and original traditions

For 100 days, seventeen horsemen will ride through historical places, make stops in cities and villages of western region of the country and pass along the east cost of the Caspian Sea. President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov said that this horse ride is summoned to reflect our richest culture, historical and cultural heritage, traditions and customs, current high achievements.

Balkan velayat is ancient region in the south-western part of Turkmenistan. Once upon a time, blooming and fertile Mishrian oasis, known in ancient time as Dehistan, was located on the smooth and bare plane of the Mishrian Plateu – the name of this part of the south-eastern Caspian Coast. This area has rich history rising from the Stone Age. Settlement of primitive human beings – Jebelali grotto, which our distant ancestors used tens of thousands years ago, known by archaeologists of the whole world reminds of it today. The only in Turkmenistan cave drawings were discovered in Bezegli on the left bank of Chandyr River in Magtumguly etrap. They were done with natural ochre and represent images of man, camels, wild hoofed animals hunting scenes. The man plays main roles in these pictures, what indicates on deliberate positioning of himself, active beginning of the universe, realizing of his superiority over animal world.

The Caspian region of Turkmenistan is famous by first hotbed of producing economy discovered in central and north Eurasian latitudes. Largest settlements of ancient civilizations Madau – Depe and Izzatkuli as well as largest irrigation system in the Central Asia were located on Mishrian plane in the second millennium B. C.

In medieval times, when the Great Silk Road run through Dehistan, the main city of the region Mashat – Mishrian became famous. It received caravans from Istanbul, Bagdad, Urgench. The city occupied the area of more than 200 hectares and was protected by double wall encirclement. It was city of masters famous by its faience and glaze ceramics. Unique monuments of architecture of Dehistan – mausoleum mosque Mashat-ata (XI – XII) with amazingly beautiful mihrab, two 25-meter minarets and pillars of cathedral mosque of the same height remained until today.

There are plenty of holy sites, where influx of pilgrims lasts throughout the centuries hoping for recovery and realization of cherished dreams. On of such places is Parav-bibi; women go to this mazar (graveyard) to pray the holy martyress to them children, pregnant ones asked for safe childbirth. Hoping for their dreams to come true, people visit the grave of fire-spitting Shibli-baba, who is spoken to have a gift of healing insane persons. Sacred Sumbar place, known to pilgrims, is located nowadays at the place where white female camel has stop while carrying the corpse of deceased Sufi and local ruler Magtym Myaezem famous by his fairness.

Balkan velayat is also famous by its people who brought fame to native land. Magtumguly Fragi – outstanding classic of Turkmen poetry, true patriot of native land, singer and spokesman of people’s soul, was born and lived in XVIII in Hajigovshan settlement of Etrek oasis. The museum with unique exhibits related to Magtumguly life like silver ring, made by the poet for his beloved Mengli and filigree teapot brought by him for his sister Zubeyda from India, was opened in his home place.

Prophetic words of Magtumguly “The land is proud with the cities of Turkmenistan” acquired real embodiment. Balkan velayat is industrially developed region with fuel and energy complex, chemical industry and construction materials’ production. Transnational main line Kazakhstan – Turkmenistan – Iran, ceremonially opened with participation of the Presidents of countries - members in December 2014, gave powerful impulse to development of Balkan velayat.

Balkan velayat is also known to lovers of comfort leisure. Resort of international level – National tourist zone “Avaza” was built on the Caspian Coast by initiative of President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov. “Avaza” is resort, sanatorium, business centre and centre of cultural activities and tourism.

Balkan velayat attracts nature-lovers by mud geysers, the oldest of which is Boyadag; uniques salt lake Mollakara; sub-tropical valley Sumbar - paleontological nature monument preserved footprints of ancient camel left 2.5 million years ago.

Original national dance “kushdepdi”, which rhythmic movements are organically interweaved with historical and cultural traditions and spiritual experience of the people, are the hallmark of cultural traditions of Balkan velayat. Symbols of mythological interpretation of natural phenomena and its world’s order, elements related to Zoroastrian cults were reflected in expressive plastique and image-bearing choreographic language.


“Avaza” – modern comfort and national identity

National tourist zone “Avaza” spread out on environment friendly Caspian Coast 12 kilometres away from Turkmenbashy city. The nature itself took care of this paradise place by giving to it pristine sand and shell beaches, air saturated with iodine, and seawater rich with different minerals and salts. Comfortable hotels, leisure centres, health and recreational, entertainment and sport complexes, child sanatoriums and cottage compounds for family rest provide modern conveniences for active rest, recovery and medical treatment.

Idea of establishment of the international level resort on sea coast of Turkmenistan belongs to President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov. It was uttered in May 2001 and after two months, mega project for creation of national tourist zone “Avaza” was presented. It is based on huge natural and recreational potential and clearly set strategy of reformations. Numerous foreign companies expressed sincere interest of business circles to the perspective of efficient investments to development of tourism business in Turkmenistan what indicates the investment attraction of mega project. The government of the country invested more than billion US dollars to construction on National tourist zone “Avaza” on the first stage of the project. The rates of realization of the project are also impressive.

Besides quite number of 5- and 4-star hotels, comfortable sanatoriums and health resorts of original architecture and fine design of interiors, modern rest and entertainment industry created in “Avaza”. There are many amusements original by their landscape design in parks “Rainbow”, “Sea Pearl” and “Wonder Coast”. Tourists have opportunity to acquaint with natural and historical monuments of Turkmenistan: there is theme history and architectural zone including models of Sultan Sanjar Mausoleum, Myane – Baba Mausoleum, Kutlug – Timur Minaret, Dayahatyn Caravansary, and monuments of Ancient Dehistan, Koytendag Dinosaurs Plateau and many others in “Sea Peral” amusement park.

Various cafes, bars, bistros and restaurants offer different dishes of national, oriental and European cuisines to visitors. Fresh and balanced food ration is provided by local farmers who supply best sort of meat, fish, fresh fruits and vegetables, aromatic melons and watermelons, diary, and camel chal (sour milk) unique by its healing characteristics.

Regarding to business people, all necessary condition have been created for held of different types of meetings and forums. Banks’ branches and Western Union electronic transfer system are opened in Avaza; there are business – centres, offices, conference – halls, provided with super modern office equipment and high-speed internet and Wi-Fi.

There are tennis courts, gyms, saunas, massage salons and fitness – centres always openfor sport lovers; and for those who wish to restore their health – various recovery departments provided with advanced medical and physiotherapeutic equipment from the best world manufacturers, which offer different services.

There is 7-kilometer artificial river among the sights of National tourist zone “Avaza”. Its banks are connected by openwork arches of automobile and pedestrian bridges and none of them looks alike. The width of the river allows navigation of sea class yachts, which can enter open sea through special lock chambers.

There is national school of windsurfing and other types of water sports functioning at “Yelken” yacht – club. Elegant sailing yachts of “Oceanics” class and cruise boat “Antares”, “Yamaha” speed water scooters, sport motor boats, pleasure boats and crafts for parachuting, various inflatable devices for water riding from “bananas”, “burgers” and “canapés” to “flying fishes” are at disposal of the Yacht – club. Along with these, the Centre of water and sailing club “Yelken” is supplied with all necessary inventories, equipment and gears for surf riding – these are water skies, boards, and sails of different types. This is an excellent place to start learning yacht driving skills and any other water sport.

Atmosphere of stylish extravagance of “Avaza” is emphasized by complex of multijet colour fountains; the sea fountain is most effective among them. Huge sea “harp” is located 185 meters from the shore and its jets create a display of 24 meters high and 60 meters wide. Holographic images and light sketches are projected on it under sound of music during dark time of the day. “Dancing” fountains ashore playing with all shades of rainbow follow the rhythm of the melody. Amphitheatre for 2400 places is main performance stage of “Avaza” where international festivals, concerts with participation of foreign celebrities and other events are held.

As for today, the resort is provided with all necessary for normal vital activity like transport and other communications, drinking water, and power.

The infrastructure of Avaza is being expanded and developed with every year. The time confirmed the actuality of plans for creation of large centre of tourism industry of Turkmen side of Caspian Coast. Avaza is vivid evidence of intensive economic growth and investment attraction of Turkmenistan. Highlighting its importance and perceptiveness, the Head of the State noted that this pilot project have to accumulate best world practices for creation of such zones and to foresee the realization of own Turkmen model of efficient management under conditions of modern market and international economic integration.


Descendants will remember Magtumguly

The Museum of Magtumguly Fragi occupies special position among places of interest in Balkan velayat. He is great Turkmen poet and thinker of XVIII, his works are recognized as a top of classic people poetry and his verses are included in “golden fund” of world’s literature. In October 2015, new building of Museum of Magtumguly Fragi was opened in administrative centre of Magtumguly etrap, native born place of poet, as well as sculptural composition of greates Turkmen poets – Magrupi, Kemine, Mollanepes, Myataji, Zelili and Seydi.

Five permanent exposition halls, conference hall for 300 people, library are located in two-store building with total area of 5393 square meters. There are three dioramas, which sequentially recreate stages of art development of Magtumguly in the hall dedicated to literature heritage of the poet. One of them shows him during study in Shirgazi – Khan Madrasah, another portrays young poet participating in art contest, which were very popular among poets. There was tradition when one poet used to send his verses to another, which contained various questions. The poet receiving the verse has to answer those questions. For example, Magtumguly’s “What age?” and “What a fire” poems were addressed to Durdy Shahir and “Who makes the difference” to Orazmengly Shahir. There were cases when some authors wrote poems containing various questions of general matter without addressing it to certain poet. There are “Won”, “From disgraceful world”, “Walking from height to height”, “Three holy men”, “Given alms for sin to be forgiven” and “Saw the land” poems among Magtumguly’s works. In this case, any poet could write his answers. The third diorama reveals another side of personality of Magtumguly – his ardour for jeweller's art. There is silver ring made by the poets for his beloved Mengli among the exhibits of museum.

Unique folios of Magtumguly and other classics of Turkmen literature, scientific studies of life and creative works of the poet are displayed in the same hall. These books published in different languages and times make up “Golden fund” of the museum. There are collections of post stamps and jubilee coins, records of theatre shows made by poems of Magtumguly, documentaries and feature films about life and creative activity of the poet among the exhibits. Interactive and multimedia technologies allow listening to Magtumguly Fragi’s works professional performed by Turkmen artists in six languages.

Unique archaeological finds excavated on the territory of the velayat, collection of music instruments, samples of national dress and decorative and applied art of Turkmen people are presented in exposition of hall of archaeology and ethnography. Special interest of visitors is brought by Turkmen yurt (tent) with complete reproduction of way of life of the people in last centuries. Nature of homeland, sung by the poet, is presented in expositions of “Nature” hall.

Dreams of the poet of great future of solidary people and strong state became true in large-scale accomplishments of today. Achievements of independent neutral Turkmenistan, especially of its western region, are reflected in “Garashsyzlyk” (Independence) hall.

Every May, when the country celebrates the Constitution Day and Day of Magtumguly Fragi Poetry, the museum became the centre of events with participation of many guests including from abroad.


Its ruins contain the centuries

Dehistan… it will always remain in the history as large centre of ancient culture of the Central Asia in Mishrian Valley in the South – West of Turkmenistan. These lands were full of life and cities were blossoming for around three thousand years from III millennium B.C. until XIV century A.C. when 60-kilometer channel supplying fresh water from Atrek River felt into disrepair. If water runs up - life ends up.

25-meter frames of beheaded minarets and portal of cathedral mosque decorated with beautiful blue ornamented tiles remind today about former grandeur of Dehistan. Silhouettes of these tall constructions stand out strikingly as giants from the distant past on straight steppe plane of Mishrian Plateau. The scientists are confident that desert still hides plenty of mysteries.

Like many other cities of the Mediaeval, Dehistan was divided into two parts – shahristan and rabad. Shakristan was surrounde by strong double-row fortified walls with semi-circle watchtowers and by deep fosse filled with water. Vast suburban zone – rabad surrounded shahristan from four sides. Handcraft and trade quarters, bazar square, caravansaries and mosques were located there. Several madrasahs were also in Dehistan. Paved streets, perfect for those time water supply and sewage systems speak of highly developed city infrastructure.

“No one can see the previous beauty; we can only imagine how splendid shakhs’ palaces, mosques, mausoleums, and minarets were” – Turkmen poet Allayar Churiyev wrote with sadness in his “Thoughts over Meshedi – Mishrian” poem. Mosque – mausoleum of Mashad – Ata, often referred as Shir – Kabir was vivid sample of Islamic culture in Dehistan. Standing on tall square platform with high dome ceiling, it gives rise to impression of grandeur and monumentality; internal decoration with splendid fine work ornament impresses and ravish even today. Presence of mirhab – special niche in the wall of main hall pointed to Mekka, speaks of the fact that it used to be a mosque. This is exactly the mirhab, with rich ornament and numerous early Arabic cites from Koran, that is main attraction of this unique construction.

Two minarets are other monuments of Dehistan, which remained relatively preserved until our time. They are located 120 meters from each other and were built 200 years apart (1004/5 and beginning of XII century). Most probably, 25-meter height of minarets is half of what it used to be. The north minaret called Abu Jafar Ahmed minaret was built by architect Ali Bin Ziyad in 1004 - 1005 along with mosque, which did not leave any trace. There is spiral staircase inside the minaret; three embossed Arabic signs in kufi design surround it. In Khwarazm Shahs period, cathedral mosque were built in the city, which is reminded only by remains of portal decorated by embossed azure ornament and gunch carvings. There are fragments of sign remained: “…greatness of the universe and faith, protection of Islam and true believers, shadow of God in the worlds, Sultan Mohammed, the son of Tekesh…”. Along with the name of the ruler, the names of architects of second minaret were called – Abdul Hussein bin Mohammed and Mohammed Bin Al-Hussein Nak.

Large caravansary will be presented to tourists in suburbs of Dehistan. There were around 40 rooms, each of them could comfortably accommodate two persons. Quick and substantial meal, mail services, laundry and other services were offered to travellers for certain price. Large stocks of forage were kept by owners for beasts of burden; special rooms were allocated for cargos, which safety was also guaranteed. Almost like modern hotel for businessmen!

Medieval Dehistan city is included in the list of 242 objects of State Historical and Cultural Sanctuary “Ancient Dehistan” as monument of richest heritage of Turkmen people and the experts work on inclusion of it to the UNESCO World Heritage List.


Unsubdued Parav - Bibi

…Young and beautiful girl of one of Turkmen tribes went further and further away from her pursuers. The chief of nomads raiding her village was so dazzled with her beauty that promised not to destroy houses of people if they would give Parav - Bibi to him. Not willing to sacrifice herself, the girl decided to escape to the mountains. Climbing higher and higher along steep path, she was feeling her power leave her. She made stops more often and often to pray Almighty for help. When enemies almost reached her, she felt on her knees again and spoke to Allah. The Merciful has heard her and slid the rocks apart. Without hesitating, Parav – Bibi has stepped into eternity. Having immured herself alive, she remained unsubdued.

This beautiful legend is known by many women of Turkmenistan; from time immemorial, the place where Parav – Bibi concealed herself in the rocks is considered to be the Holy one. On high-elevated site, as far back as in IX – X centuries, the constructors chipping off huge rocks from backside have built support walls from carefully adjusted stones without any cementing. Thus, mazar (graveyard) with dome and portal blended harmonically to picturesque mountain landscape. The height of main portal is 4.8 meters. Huge stone with palm prints, on which Parav – Bibi was praying, is located near the graveyard. Prints of elbow, finger and forehead left by the girl are visible in the rock as well. Once upon a time, the spring welled out from under the rock, which was given with healing power, but unfortunately it run dry.

Until now, women from all places of Turkmenistan come for worshiping of Parav – Bibia and asked the Holy for a child if they do not have it, for a son if there are only girls in the family and for easy and fast birth. According to the legend, the girl was famous for her healing skills. People say that great doctor Lukman Hekim used to visit her and presented her with his ring as blessing.

Walking up the path, which Parav – Bibi used, pilgrimess put their hands to palm prints and say prayers. Crescent – shaped stones laying in close proximity are considered holy ones also as according to legend it was slices of melon, which girl used to throw to pursuers.

There is a belief that if the stone starts rolling under one’s foot then the wish will come true and if not – one has to returned after one year and asked the Holy for help again. Corner and underground rooms are for making prayers; there are pray mats – namazlyks on the ground.

There is big pile of stones on the right hand side of the path leading to mazar. By the legend, a woman who showed enemies the path taken by Parav – Bibi was standing on that place. By the tradition, everyone has to throw five stones to that pile showing their vengeance to the traitor.

According to Turkmen scientists, the image of Parav – Bibi is similar to the cult of Mother – Goddess, the patroness of pregnant women. That is why, to open her way home for easy birth, woman used to bring out large bowl of flour. It was given to their poor people or bread was baked and given to poor widows with children also.

Parav – Bibi Mazar by its construction is typical for central Asian architecture of IX – X centuries. Archaeologists discovered similar mountain sanctuary in the 30s of last century at Baba – Durmaz Spring head.


Attraction of Shibli – Baba

Modest Shibli – Baba ritual complex, known by people as Shyvlan, is located in the silence of mountain slope completely covered by dark lichen, 10 kilometres away from Magtumguly settlement. Fame of mercy of Holy man, who gained the power of saviour of suffering souls, was spread out far beyond the Sumbar Valley. That is why, pilgrims go there all year around to make prayer and have commemorative meal after sacrifice.

The history of foundation of holy Shibli – Baba shime is related with name of mediaeval mystic, Sufi sheikh Ash – Shibli Khorasani. He used to live in second half of IX – first half of X centuries and was buried in Baghdad. His doctrine was spread out far beyond the place where he lived and created.

Shibli – Baba worship emerged among people of the Sumbar Valley also. Symbolic cenotaph (imaginary graves) was made as memory of the sheikh. This very modest monument of sacral purpose and there are plenty of these in Turkmenistan. People come to Shibli – Baba to heal souls and minds. According to legends, he is a holy protector of mentally ill persons.

Peculiarity of flora around sacred place, especially dark lichen covering mountain slope, gave birth to legends. According to one of them, Shibli – Baba was wandering dervish and walked many roads to find the God. Once, he stopped at this place. Being disappointed and sad that he could not find way to the God, Shirli – Baba sighed bitterly and the flame from his mouth burned the surroundings. Another legend says that young Shyvly – Jan saw beautiful peri, who stroke his heart from first sight. Inspired, he rushed after her but she literally vanished in the air. Where could she disappear? – Young man asked his pir – tutor with surprize. Heavenly houri flew over the mountain, – the teacher answered. Shyvly – Jan sighed so heavily and bitterly that his breath burned the mountain. It remains blackened since those times and nothing grows on it. The logic of the myth is that redemption come through sufferings and coming to Shirli - Baba sufferers ask for healing of mental persons.


Magtym – Myaezem – the modest “great master”

Modest mausoleum called by native people as Magtym – mayazem stands alone in the Sumbar river valley near Magtymgala settlement. In translation from Arabic, “mahdum” (magsym) means “master” and “myaezem” means “great”. The mausoleum was built in honour of holy patron of magtyms, whose name occupies seventy-eight position in the chain from Adam where Prophet Mohammed is on forty-nine place. People used to call him Mahzum Agzam or Imam Agzam as it was forbidden to say own name of powerful and respected representative of Sufi clergy.

However, it is known that he was born in Gorgan two hundred years after Mongolian invasion and was not only Sufi by birth but also passed judgement for 10 years while being ruler of his velayat in the interfluve of Atrek and Gorgan rivers. The Holy man died in XV century and was buried at place of mausoleum, the legend says that white camel carrying the corpse of deceased has stopped and laid down there, much probably, following his will to inter him in certain place. Close disciples and associates of Magtym Myaezem considered stop of camel as a sign.

There were three attempts to build mausoleum on top of the grave but all of them ended up feebly. Another attempt was undertaken in XVI century and as it mentioned in one of the manuscripts of genealogy, it was organized by Seyitguly – sopy, rahmanguly – sultan and Temirbeg – yuzbashy, Musa Bin Abu Muhammed from Isfahan was an architect.

Uniqueness of modest looking mausoleum is that it resembles some of famous monuments of XV century by its planning composition. Entrance portal peshtak with vaulted niche dominates on main façade; there are smaller arched niches in two rows on both side of it.

Two spiral staircases inside the walls lead to miniature balconies and the roof. Cruciform hall is covered by double-layer dome based on shield - shaped pendentives, which are decorated by gunch plaster. Looking at the dome while standing in the centre of the hall, one can see that its edges make sixteen points star.

The Magtym Mausoleum has entered the history of national architecture as sample of classic constructive forms.