Participants of the Caspian Forum share their impressions about Turkmenistan

On 11 12 August the national recreation area Avaza hosted the First Caspian Economic Forum, which brought together delegates and entrepreneurs not only from the member states of the Caspian Convention, but from the CIS countries.

Some visitors to the Forum shared their impressions about Turkmenistan with the news agency Fergana and Radio Azatlyk on conditions of anonymity.

An interlocutor of Fergana emphasized that despite the fact that visitors had been promised to be provided with free accommodation on the website of the First Caspian Economic Forum, my friends advised me to take US dollars in cash as payments locally can be charged at the unofficial exchange rate.

The hotel can be described as splendour and misery. On the one hand, there is a lot of marble and vermeil On the other hand, one could see fungus in the bathrooms, poor quality promotional brochures printed out on colour printers, cheap flip flops from local stores, which are not always open as well as foreign exchange offices. Experienced colleagues were right attendees of the forum had to pay 80 dollars per night for accommodation. As regards cleaning, the room was not cleaned on the first, the second and even the third day. On the fourth day I had to contact the reception and request the room cleaning, a visitor said.

WiFi was not available at the hotel but the hotel where Dmitry Medvedev was staying with the entire floor being closed had unhampered WhatsApp and Facebook access.

As regards payments with credit cards, the option is officially available, but in fact credit cards are not accepted. The restaurant failed to accept five credit cards issued by different payment systems, banks and countries and for this reason the arrangements were made to charge the bill to the room and then figure out how to settle it. As far as the exchange rate is concerned, the official rate is 3,5 manats per dollar, whereas the black market exchange rate amounts to 17,7 manats.

In the night of 8 August, prior to arrival of Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov to Avaza, demining teams first cleared the beaches and in the morning all roads were cordoned off. Hotel guests were asked to refrain from leaving their rooms and opening the balconies. The guests were also surprised to find out that roads in Turkmenistan are moppedmanually.

It is also emphasized that people are afraid of talking about their personal matters and discuss sensitive topics in any premises which are not owned by them. All important negotiations take place in privatelyowned vehicles, on the streets or in private offices.

A visitor to the forum managed to get to the closed party with an abundance of alcoholic beverages served and good chillout music.

According to them, retail outlets both in Avaza and in Turkmenbashi look decent and they did not notice any shortage of groceries or other goods.

However, there was a variety of fresh imported groceries which might have been supplied ahead of the forum. The locals, however, look around the merchandise in the shops like in a museum. Pursuant to the instructions issued by a special commission price tags were attached to the goods but they cost almost twice as much. It is forbidden to sell caviar.

In conclusion the author highlights that Turkmens are very beautiful, the majority of girls are slim and men have fine features and only security officials and other honoured individuals have bellies.

An interlocutor of Azatlyk said that a special person, referred to as a volunteer with a portable radio set in his hands, was assigned to each group of foreign visitors.

It is quite surprising that portraits of the President are pervasive. Moreover, it was impoosible to encounter regular Turkmen residents in the recreational zone Avaza but there are a lot of police officers and security personnel in plain clothes on the streets.

Avaza hotels were referred to as impressive by visitors to Avaza but due to the fact that the buildings are not taken care of in an appropriate manner, many of them look dilapidated. Furthermore, there was a bat in one room and a hole in the wall in another room.

Source: Chronicles of Turkmenistan