Turkmenistan lies east of the Caspian Sea, north of Iran and Afghanistan. It shares a short northwestern border with Kazakhstan and its eastern border with Uzbekistan.

Map of Turkmenistan

Map of Turkmenistan

The Turkmen people have traditionally been nomads and equestrians, Turkmen have adapted their lifestyle to the desert environment, they drink hot green tea to keep the body cool during summer and have used the desert to their advantage in times of strife. A Turkmen can be identified anywhere by the traditional “telpek” hats, which are large black sheepskin hats that resemble afros. The national dress: men wear high, shaggy sheepskin hats and red robes over white shirts. Women wear long sack-dresses over narrow trousers. Female headdresses usually consist of silver jewellery, bracelets and brooches are set with semi-precious stones.

Traditional telpek hat

Traditional telpek hat

In addition to traditional costumes, carpets, and other traditions, one of the most important Turkmen cultural symbols is the horse, especially the Akhal-Teke breed, camels were important to a nomadic desert lifestyle, but the Turkmen derived a sense of personal and cultural pride from horses. The Turkmen flag also features as an emblematic color of Islam, the green background emphasizes the nation’s Muslim heritage.

 Flag of Turkmenistan,  with the five tribal göls and the Islamic crescent moon.

Flag of Turkmenistan, with the five tribal göls and the Islamic crescent moon.

1. Turkmenistan Weddings

In a culture where the strength of the family has always been important, weddings and the birth of children hold the highest priority. While society is changing, the traditional customs and rituals of the matchmaking process and the wedding ceremony are still precisely observed. Besides the traditional visits and gifts between the two households, the date for the matchmaking meeting, the wedding and even the direction from which the bride arrives at the groom’s home must be in accordance with the position of the stars and planets. As the bride approaches her future husband’s home she must take the first step with the right foot – otherwise, it is said that there will be troubles, illness, and quarrels with the in-laws.

Amid the solemnity of the rites, there are songs woven into every occasion. Among these are “yar-yar” or “dear, dear” songs, that include comical verses: We’ve seen our future son-in-law, He doesn’t look worse than our girl, yar-yar and We´ll give you a chance to race an ant, Please try to ride it, yar-yar. Others are more plaintive: Chuval (a type of rug) is spread at home, My house is left behind, yar-yar, With various dishes in it,  My share is left behind, yar-yar.

Turkmenistan wedding celebration

Turkmenistan wedding celebration

2. Turkmenistan Festivals

Along with the common regional holidays such as Nowruz, several holidays have been established celebrating various aspects of Turkmen culture and life. These include Turkmen Carpet Day, which is observed yearly on the last Sunday of May throughout the country. Exhibitions feature local arts and crafts as well as the exquisite handmade carpets unique to Turkmenistan, showing off the expert combination of color and design that gives them a special glow. A different kind of celebration is Turkmen Melon Day, held in every province on the second Sunday in August. Festivities include performances by musical groups and exhibitions of foodstuffs, as well as contests for the largest and best quality melons and pumpkins.

Turkmen melon festival

Turkmen melon festival

 3. Turkmenistan National Dress

The national dress of Turkmenistan has changed very little over the centuries. The distinctive high, shaggy sheepskin hats worn by men help keep the hot sun from their heads and, combined with their red robes over white shirts, create a very striking image. Women, too, still wear the traditional clothing of a long silk shift over narrow trousers that are trimmed with a band of embroidery at the ankle. Richly decorated headwear , jewelry and embroidery accent even everyday clothing,

Turkmen ladies dress

Turkmen ladies dress

4. Turkmenistan dance and music

The songs of Turkmenistan are connected to every aspect of life, from lullabies to the songs children sing during their games, to maiden’s songs and wedding songs, to the worksongs sung during camel milking and carpet weaving.
The most vibrant and respected of musicians is the bakhshi. A musician-storyteller, he travels from town to town, dressed in special clothing and carrying his own utensils and water drawn from his own well. The villagers will have prepared a carpet-covered platform for him and there, by firelight, up to 2,000 people will gather to listen as the bakhshi sings, starting before sunset and ending long after sunrise the next morning.

Turkmen bakhshi musician

Turkmen bakhshi musician

Music and Dance Folk Ensemble of Turkmenistan

Music and Dance Folk Ensemble of Turkmenistan

5. Turkmenistan Bazaars

On Sundays, the Tolkuchka bazaar is the best place to view the intricate and unique Turkmen carpets from all over the country. This is the largest bazaar in the country, spread out over several acres in the desert offering every imaginable type of good: carpets, camels, beautiful local jewelry, household goods and vehicles, handcrafts of every material and design, as well as fruits and vegetables, spices and snacks.

In Turkmenistan the bazaar is not the only place to purchase items. There are colorful fairs and supermarkets and permanent exhibitions of the national crafts. There’s no bargaining in these shops, but you will find an international marketplace that is more attuned to the modern world.

Tolkuchka bazaar

Tolkuchka bazaar

6. Turkmenistan Applied & Decorative Art

The traditional arts include felt manufacture, woodwork, jewelry making, , ceramics, and silverwork, but the two crafts in which Turkmen excel are silk manufacture and carpet making.

Turkmenistan produces some of the most unique and beautiful carpets in the world, they are sold internationally under different names (such as Bukharan or Afghan), many people don’t realize their source. Carpet weaving is an ancient art, and each tribe developed its own distinctive pattern. Turkmen carpets have been traditionally woven out of wool, cotton, and silk by women, using horizontal looms. The method of weaving has been modernized, but the beauty and quality of the fabrics remains.

Turkmen decorative carpet

Turkmen decorative carpet