Dushanbe: Searching for the Turkmenistan Embassy    

9.10.08 Dushanbe: Searching for the Turkmenistan Embassy

Our business of the day was getting a Turkmenistan transit visa.

We headed past the market to the location shown in Lonely Planet only to find a sign on the door that said, “The Turkmenistan Embassy is at a different address.” It didn't say where. We asked a man across the street who said if we walked down the street past Ayni, and turned left, we'd find the embassy. We followed his directions and found the Azerbaijan Embassy. Someone then said the Turkmenistan consulate was now way up on Rudaki near the Agricultural University.

We decided to check the Internet to see if we could find the actual address. On a couple sites it was listed-- 105 Rudaki. We took the bus but since it is often hard to see street numbers we overshot 105. Walking back we found 105 was a hotel. Thinking perhaps either I or the web sites had been dyslexic I said, “Maybe it was 150.” So we got back on the bus and headed towards 150. We saw the Agricultural University but overshot it hoping that we'd see a Turkmen flag. When we didn't, we walked back asking. Someone said 150 was near the square so we headed past the university but still didn't find it. A man pointed up a narrow street saying it was past the Pakistan Embassy. We walked up the street but saw neither Pakistan or Turkmenistan embassy. No one we asked knew anything about either embassy, so we went back to the main street and asked a guard at a school. He said it was off the street that ran west from the square. Another guard said it was south. Then there was some confusion about if the one in the south was Uzbekistan. They went to ask someone else who said something different. We walked south and asked a taxi driver. He said, “It's just 50 meters south of here.” We hurriedly walked 50 meters and came to the Chinese consulate. Rowshan asked there and a guard said it was up the street left of the main square. Rowshan was dubious. We had decided people here give you directions even if they have no idea where the place is. A woman waiting assured us it really was there. We walked back to the square, turned left and walked a block. Rowshan noticed a flag, so we turned right on the next street, left into an alley and finally found the Turkmenistan Embassy. The guard called the consul and said he'd see us and we could take a seat. There were 2 plastic chairs in the alley and a bench occupied by an old man. We sat down and the old man began to question Rowshan with all the standard questions: Where are you from? Are you a Muslim? Are you married? Do you have any children? Why not? Then added some more. He asked how much a plane ticket form the US to Istanbul was. Rowshan said probably around $1000. “No! You are wrong!” the man responded. “I know people who paid $11,000.”

Rowshan shrugged, knowing it wasn't worth arguing, “Yah, you are right.” The guard laughed. The man asked what Rowshan's job was several times and then, “If you are traveling, you must have $100,000 on you.” “No,” Rowshan said, “I have 1 million.” The man said, “There are lots of millionaires in America.” Rowshan replied, “I'm one of them.” He asked Rowshan why he had long hair and Rowshan responded he didn't have time to cut it. The man offered to cut it right there and then and told the guard to bring scissors. The man asked where Rowshan's parents lived and how old he was. Rowshan replied then asked him how old he was and he said, “82”. Rowshan said, “Mashalah, God willing, I'll reach 82” and both the guard and old man said “Amin” bringing their hands down in front of their faces in a common Central Asian gesture. It turned out the man was Uzbek but he'd moved to Tajikistan when he was 12. Eventually a woman left the consulate and the consul appeared at the door calling us in. He was friendly and helpful. We filled out the application and he said to come back in a couple weeks. It was very easy but I joked we'd Rowshan had already been screened by the old man at the door who perhaps was a secret screener for Turkmenistan.

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