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Dashoguz

Turkmenistan
Tags : Dashoguz

The name of the regional capital (pop of 160,000 people) has undergone a number of changes of spelling. Once known as Tashauz, the name Dashhovuz briefly held sway until a presidential decree in 1999 announced that city and region would both be named Dashoguz. The new spelling draws on one version of the origins of the name: that it refers to an Oguz clan living 'far' ('dash') from their compatriots. The presidential decree refers to the importance of correcting the 'distortion' of historical names, in this case to help young people develop the 'spirit of patriotism' associated with the Oguz Turkmen. But there is a quite different version of the name's origins: 'dash' can also mean 'stone', and under this interpretation the town draws its name from a stone-clad spring, which provided an important water supply for travellers passing through.

The first references to a settlement here date from the early 19th century. Later, as part of the Khanate of Khiva, its role included that of ensuring that local Turkmen tribes remained in line. The modern town dates from the Soviet period: construction began in earnest along the southern side of the Shabat Canal in the 1920s. A standard creation of the Soviet Union, Dashogus is a sprawling industrial city with a neat, soulless centre and nothing to attract visitors. Even its one semi-sight, some idiosyncratic dinosaur statues, was recently removed by the authorities for reasons best known to them. The centre itself consists of an enormous boulevard lined with concrete buildings separated by empty lots. Despite this most travellers end up spending a night here, as it’s a useful stopover between Ashgabat and Uzbekistan. Indeed, the place serves as a transport hub, and a convenient base for exploring the region, rather than as a tourist destination in its own right. For some local colour, head to the excellent Bai Bazaar, where you can buy pretty much anything. With wide and rather empty streets, and expanses of run-down Soviet apartment blocks in the town centre, Dashoguz can feel a somewhat desolate place.

Getting There & Away - Dashogus airport is 14km south of the city. Flights from Ashgabat to Dashogus (48M, five daily) take about 50 minutes, although you should book early as this is a very popular route. Despite the relatively large number of flights, all on Boeing 717 aircraft, it can be fiendishly difficult to get a ticket. Arrive early for your flight: there are many stories of overbookings. Turkmenistan Airlines also flies to Turkmenbashi (58M, four weekly) and Mary (57M, three weekly). As you enter the terminal building from your plane, your passport will be checked by border guards for the appropriate restricted zone permit. The airport is 14km south of town.

The bus station is near the Bai Bazaar, in the north of the city. Buses regularly go from here to Konye-Urgench (3M, two hours) and Ashgabat (30M, nine hours). Buses for Turkmenabat were not available at the time of research. Shared taxis go from outside the train station and cost 36/150M per place/car to Ashgabat. The arduous journey to Turkmenabat will set you back 70/280M per place/car.

The train station is on Woksal koshesi, about 600m east of Gurbansoltan koshesi. One painfully slow train per day goes from here to Konye-Urgench (1.5M, four hours) at 7.05am daily and one to Ashgabat at 11.15am daily (platskartny/kupe 5.08M/9.58M, 20 hours). The rail line to Ashgabat was built on sand without foundation, forcing trains to crawl at agonisingly slow speeds. There is a rail line to Turkmenabat but a lack of demand has suspended services and currently trains from Turkmenabat only go as far as Gazachak.

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