Türkmenabat is the second largest city in Turkmenistan after the capital Ashgabat. It is the administrative centre of Lebap Province. The city is located on the banks of the Amu Darya River, near the border with Uzbekistan. It’s population was 254,000 people in 2009 and continues to grow.
Previously Türkmenabat was known under the names Amul (till 1924), Leninsk (1924-1927), Novy Chardzhuy (1927-1940) and Çärjew (1940-1999).
The previous name of the city, Çärjew (also Chardzhou), is a Turkmen derivation from the Persian čahârjuy, which consists of 2 parts: čahâr, which means “four”, and juy, which means “brook”. The current name Türkmenabat is a combination of Türkmen and the Persian suffix ābād (آباد), which means “cultivated place” (village or city).
The city’s history dates back to ancient times, with its position along the Silk Road playing a significant role in its development. The city, known in those days as Amul, was a junction at the intersection of three trade roads leading to Bukhara, Khiva and Merv. For centuries, Amul was an important city of the Uzbek feudal Khanate (later Emirate) of Bukhara.
When the Russian Empire began to annex Central Asian Turkestan, Amul was surrendered to the Russian Emirate of Bukhara, which subsequently became a Russian vassal and swore allegiance to the Russian Emperor. The modern city was founded in 1886 by Russians. The settlement here was necessary to complete the construction of the Trans-Caspian Railway.
As a crucial hub in the region, Turkmenabat is well-connected by various modes of transportation. The Turkmenabat International Airport offers flights to domestic and international destinations. The city also has a significant railway station, connecting it with other major cities in Turkmenistan and neighboring countries. Additionally, Turkmenabat’s road network facilitates easy access to urban and rural areas, contributing to its status as a key economic center in the region.
After the 1917 revolution, the Soviet government united the former Central Asian regions of the Russian Empire, along with the former Khiva (Khorezm) and Bukhara khanates, into republics along ethnic lines. Thus, Turkmenabat was transferred to the newly created Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic in order to reduce the territory and power of Uzbekistan, where anti-Soviet separatist movements were widespread.
The role of the railway junction and the high fertility of the Amudarya region made it a major center for trade in agricultural products in the northeastern region of the country. The city is home to enterprises in the food and textile (cotton processing and silk) industries. Charyev was an industrial and transport hub of Turkmenistan during the Soviet period, but most of the associated jobs and transport opportunities were moved to Ashgabat or closed after Turkmenistan gained independence.
These days, Turkmenabad is known for its bazaars. The largest bazaar is the “World Bazaar” (Turkmen: Dünýa bazar). Other famous bazaars are Gök Bazaar (Green Bazaar) and Merkezi Bazaar (Central Bazaar). People from all over the country come to Turkmenabat to buy local, Chinese, Turkish, Uzbek and Russian goods. Dunya Bazaar has a variety of sections including jewellery, home appliances, clothing, dairy products and cars.
The city’s Attractions
- 70 km southwest of Turkmenabat, in the South-Eastern Karakum Desert, is the Repetek Nature Reserve, which is the hottest place in Central Asia.
- The Amul-Charjuy settlement is the ruins of the fortress of the ruler of Amul, dating back to the 10th-11th centuries. It is located very close to the entrance to Turkmenabat – only 10 kilometers. In the 10th century, the settlement was a vast square adobe fortress, surrounded by a wide moat with water.
- Mausoleum of Astana Baba. Also part of the city-museum of Kerki, it consists of a mosque and tomb, which were built in the 11th century.
- Caravanserai Dayakhatyn (Bai-Khatyn). The caravanserai, located on the road leading from Amul to Khorezm, is a unique monument of architecture of the 11th-12th centuries. Today, only the extensive ruins of the Rabat caravanserai made of mud brick have reached us. Rabat was once fortified with round towers.
- Koytendag (Köýtendag) is a mountainous area with nature untouched by civilization, replete with rare species of animals and plants. Here you can see a lunar landscape, unique karst caves, as well as a dinosaur plateau with the world’s largest number of paw prints of prehistoric lizards in one place.
- The dinosaur plateau, on which more than a hundred fossilized traces of ancient dinosaurs were discovered, was found on the northeastern slope of Mount Gaurdak in the southeast of Turkmenistan. On a rocky plateau located at an altitude of 750-800 meters, the traces were preserved almost perfectly.
- There are also active churches in the city: the Church of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker and the Church of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul. There is a mosque building, which formerly housed the regional library.