“Good Morning Everyone, Happy Turkmenistan Independence Day!”
I say as the usual weary (from the night before) eyes stare blankly back at me as they’ve probably already sick of my bus speeches.
“Now everyone, you’re going to have to work with me here, as even at this moment we aren’t sure what events we’ve been given permission to attend. We also don’t know who will be in attendance at today events, so we need to be prepared to change plans at the last minute, wait in security lines and sit patiently. We are going to see some amazing things regardless and just accept that this is all part of the craziness that is Independence Day. You never know, we might even get to see HIM”.
This really already sums up why it’s such an amazing experience because even as we first set foot in the morning, we really have no idea where the day will take us. One problem that arises from this is the unbridled joy that I exhibit, casting doubt in our guest’s minds that I’ve actually even been to this event before.
What’s it like?
It takes a special kind of person to come with us to Turkmenistan for Independence Day. Guests know the risks: Increased likelihood of rejection as security tightens, the unpredictable of the schedule and the early mornings, very early mornings, but most importantly the once in a lifetime surprises and experiences. 2017 was no different. Throughout the day it slowly became clearer what we would be seeing, in the afternoon, a mass games style display in front of a packed stadium all cheering. Then the following morning, a horse racing event, in which sat directly in front of the President himself. Security meant long waits including our wonderful 4am start for the horse event, which only started at 10 am, but this was all part of the excitement.
As we first set foot out in the morning, we really have no idea where the day will take us.
The biggest surprise occurred a day later in the Caspian resort of Avaza. At the time we were staying in Turkmenibashy at, of course, the Turkmenbashy Hotel, a much cheaper option that in Avaza itself. Upon hearing of our presence in the nearby port town, the Ministry of Tourism invited us to be upgraded to one of the brand new hotels in the seaside resort, and we were to be invited to a tourism convention being held in the same hotel. We even were guests to have lunch with the Minister of Tourism.
Our media appearance
The event, poetically named “International Exhibition and Conference on Tourism “Tourism and Travel”, was held at the same time as the Independence Day holidays to show the great strives made by the State Committee for Tourism in promoting and fostering tourism in Turkmenistan, and we were their star guests. Firstly we were given pride of place at the opening ceremony of the event, ensuring our group featured prominently on Turkmenistan state television. We were treated to food from every corner of the country while walking and talking with the Minister. Some YPTers got into the spirit and danced the afternoon away with government officials and department heads.
One of the most exciting moments for me always has to be the television cameras, being interviewed for Turkmenistan television never gets boring and is always is the favourite of many YPTers. After the tour being another great success, I finally got the chance to sit down, get some work done and watch some television. I turn the TV on, only to watch our Independence Day group on 30 minute rotation across all the main state television stations.