Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Home Sweet Home - Turkmen Style (June 30 - July 1)

After experiencing city life in Ashgabat and marveling at Darvaza gas crater, I’m excited to move on and see a part of Turkmen life that many tourists don’t experience, a rural village in the mountains called Nokur. Our tourist agency, Stantours, has arranged homestay accommodations for us. What a range of places we have stayed in so far in Turkmenistan: a palace hotel in the city, a tent in the desert and now a typical home in a rural village. It’s only about 360 km from Ashgabat to Nokhur, but it’s all on pretty bad roads, so it takes us 14 hours to arrive at the homestay exhausted but happy to be there.

View of the village of Nokhur

The homestay is owned by Gaib and Enebai, a local couple who opened their home to tourists more than 10 years ago. Gaib was the village’s cinema projectionist before he retired. Their 12 year old granddaughter from Ashgabat is also there visiting her grandparents for the summer. She is really sweet and a big help to her grandmother. Enebai prepares a delicious meal of vegetarian dumplings with a cream sauce, fresh tomato salad, bread and hot tea to drink. Gaib, Maksat, Stani and I enjoy this meal sitting on carpets and pillows under a terrace covered with grape vines, but I’m aware and sad that Enebai and their granddaughter don’t eat with us. Our bedroom is simple but I like it because the floor is covered from wall to wall with beautiful Turkmen carpets. This is really a cool place!

Dinner at the homestay

Our room
The next day, Gaib comes with us as we drive to see the village’s main sites. The first stop is the town’s unique cemetery where each gravestone is topped by a pair of mountain goat horns - locals consider the goats to be sacred. Nearby is the shrine of Qyz Bibi, the pre-Islamic patroness of women and goddess of fertility. People come here from all over the country on pilgrimage especially if they are seeking to conceive a child. They offer up prayers and tie colorful cloths, often in the shape of a cradle, at the small opening of the cave where Qyz Bibi is believed to dwell or on a nearby tree.

Nokhur’s cemetery

After visiting the two sites in town, we drive for about an hour out of town on a twisty bumpy road, park the car and then hike to a nice waterfall. Afterwards we continue our drive to a cow and goat farm belonging to Gaib and Enebai’s in-laws. The in-laws live here in the summer and in the winter go back to Nokhur. Here we eat lunch and sample some of their cow’s milk, fresh butter and goat cheese. All are delicious! This certainly is a unique experience that we were not expecting.

The in-laws at the farm

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing!

    Hard to believe it took 14hrs to get to Nokur. Many tour agencies offer day tours from Ashgabat that takes only 7-8hrs. Lonely planet guides tell that there is 2hrs bus from Ashgabat.