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Turkmenistan's Latest Folly: Humongous Yurt

Turkmenistan is wrapping up construction on a mega-yurt designed for major public events to mark the eastern city of Mary being named the 2015 Culture and Arts Capital of the Turkic World. 

State media reported on November 3 that the yurt is of gigantic proportions — at least compared to the modest tent affairs used by nomads. The yurt, which is in fact no tent at all, is 70 meters in diameter, 35 meters high and can hold up to 3,000 people.

The official government portal said that 250 laborers were required to erect the edifice. Work started in April and inauguration is expected in November.

Although the building is being dubbed a yurt, there is little about it that rings especially faithful to the spirit of the dwellings prized for their portability. 

“The domed room was made from prefabricated panels, the walls out of glass and aluminum windows reminiscent of the latticed exterior of traditional Turkmen yurts. The base was lined with granite,” the government website explained.

Like any self-respecting yurt, the Mary number will have three stories. The top floor will house a restaurant, a dressing room, office space, while the first floor will be turned into exclusive apartment for VIPs.

Architecture in Turkmenistan in the post-Soviet period has often taken on very literal qualities reflecting the purpose for which it is built.

The state publishing company and government newspaper are housed in a building shaped like a book. The Foreign Ministry is topped by a giant globe of the earth.

Ashgabat also likes its buildings to be large and impressive. The capital is home to the “largest architectural star” in the world, and the world's largest indoor Ferris wheel

That’s not to speak of the sheer amount of marble on show, which even got Turkmenistan into the Guinness Book of Records.

As Guinness noted of Ashgabat in 2013, "if the marble was laid out flat, there would be one square meter of marble for every 4.87 square meters of land.”

In that context, a giant tent seems par for the course.

Turkmenistan's Latest Folly: Humongous Yurt

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