Turkmenistan: land of crazy contradictions

We were sitting quietly having some shashlyk and horrible beer, when a wedding party flash-mobbed the chaikhana.

Within a minute the party had started – everyone was on the dance floor, the oonze oonze of electronica rattled the windows and a strobe light flashed out its epileptic beat. Women did a stiff two step in their beautiful Thai-style ankle-length fitted dresses, while the men did a more flamboyant version that involved much arm waving and leg kicks.

After a heady cup of coke and fanta the bride and groom got up for an awkward slow dance (he wanted to get up close and cuddly but she wasn’t having a bar of it), and just as suddenly the music was off, the lights were up and they were gone.

All up it took about half an hour, but left my new Belgain friend and I somewhat stunned – we thought border-town Konye-Urgench was supposed to be a lifeless rural backwater.

There were five minutes of confused silence (on our part) and then the lights were back down, the strobes were up and ‘Nossa’, the massively popular Portuguese single, was cranking out of the two metre tall speakers.

The lone two couples remaining got up to dance – no touching, but I don’t think you’d find two un-married couples dancing like that together in Uzbekistan.

I, along with the Belgian, a motorcyclist heading towards Uzbekistan, were completely taken by surprise: this is Turkmenistan, a dictatorship that, as I’ve said before, rivals Kim Jong-il’s closed shop.

I wasn’t expecting ear-burstingly loud Euro electronic dance music, strobe lights and double-date night. And this is just Monday.


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