The City of White Marble: Ashgabat, Turkmenistan

Travel photographer Amos Chapple recently crossed into Turkmenistan on a three-day transit visa and was able to photograph many of the sights and monuments in Ashgabat, the capital and largest city. Turkmenistan is a single-party country, a former Soviet state, run by a president at the center of a cult of personality. Chapple: "Twice before I'd had tourist visa applications rejected, so it felt like entering a forbidden place. When we drove into Ashgabat I assumed there was some kind of holiday taking place -- the streets and all these beautiful parks stood deserted. In the area I first walked there were more soldiers than civilians. They patrol the city center and are extremely jumpy about photographs. Twice, soldiers shouted at me from a distance then ran up and demanded pictures be deleted." Ashgabat was recently noted by the Guinness Book of World Records as having the most white marble-clad buildings in the world -- 543 new buildings lined with white marble covering a total area of 4.5 million square meters. (Also, see earlier photographs by Chapple featured here in March: A Trip to Iran)

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