Turkmenistan Opens ‘Smart City’
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Turkmenistan Opens ‘Smart City’

Gas-rich Turkmenistan has opened a US$7.5 billion “smart” city in honour of eccentric former dictator Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov.

Arkadag, translating as Protector, an unofficial title of Berdymukhamedov, is due to reach a population of about 73,000, the authorities say. All of Arkadag’s buildings are white and its apartment blocks are all seven-storeys high, a lucky number in Turkmenistan.

“This was a truly historic day that will be inscribed in golden letters in the glorious chronicle of the independent and neutral homeland,” according to the Turkmen news agency.

Arkadag includes solar power and “smart” homes that residents can control with a smartphone.

Only electric vehicles are allowed in Arkadag, which has a golden 43-metre sculpture of Berdymukhamedov on an akhal-teke horse, the national breed. The horse depicted won the world record for running 10 metres on its hind legs.

His son Serdar, the current president, officially opened the city around 30km southwest of the capital Ashgabat on Thursday.

Turkmenistan, one of the world’s most secretive countries with limited foreign media access, has struggled to diversify its economy away from natural gas.

Berdymukhamedov, a former dentist who ran the nation of 6 million people for 15 years until last year, had the new city built near his home village.

Berdymukhamedov and his predecessor Saparmurat Niyazov developed cults of personality that included bizarre rituals, social conformity and garish monuments.

Niyazov, or Turkmenbasy, “head of the Turkmen”, banned beards, ballet and the circus, wrote a holy book and renamed January after himself and April after his mother.

The Turkmen authorities also announced that a new book had been published by Berdymukhamedov, a sequel to his “The Meaning of Life”.

The authorities hailed the new book as a “national treasure”.

Berdymukhamedov, 66, is on the hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia and missed Arkadag’s opening ceremony. Observers say he is the real power broker in Turkmenistan while he chairs the People’s Council.

In January, Berdimuhamedov staged a form of coup against his son, Serdar, changing the constitution to establish the new role of “leader of the nation” above the presidency.

A construction and architecture ministry representative said Berdymukhamedov closely oversaw the city’s construction, providing “valuable recommendations”.

“Thanks to his efforts, a beautiful city has appeared on the land of our valiant ancestors,” the anonymous employee said.

Source : Eurasia Times