Turkmenistan’s capital, Ashgabat has built one of the most amazing looking airports in the world, and it is making headlines for obvious reasons. The five-floor airport has been designed to look like a falcon, depicting the logo of the Central Asian state carrier Turkmenistan Airlines.
In 2013, a Turkish construction company Polimeks won the $2 billion contract for its construction. The building is said to be able to host over 1600 passengers an hour. Its freight terminal can handle 200,000 tonnes of freight annually and is estimated to have the capacity to serve 17 million passengers a year.
Unfortunately, last year only 105,000 tourists visited the country, which amounts to 12 people an hour. And the existing airport near the capital only caters to the state carrier and a short list of foreign airlines from Belarus, China, Russia and Turkey. These facts are making people question the sense behind creating such an extravagant project.
Turkmenistan is an ex-soviet country, depending heavily on its natural gas reserves for revenue. It has a dictatorship regime in place, and allegedly suffers high levels of corruption. An inside source, on the condition of anonymity, said that the new airport cost a lot more than initially estimated by the time it was completed.
But Turkmenistan’s President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov is adamant on defending his priorities and choices. This Saturday he hailed his country’s “solid transit potential” at the opening ceremony of the airport. He said, “With an advantageous geographical position at the crossroads of regional and international communications routes, our country has a solid transit potential we aspire to realise to the maximum.”