Turkmenistan: Famous Melons Named for President, Cult Book
Turkmenistan celebrates its famous melons in August, and every year, the festivities become more elaborate as the holiday is invested with patriotic and political significance in the "Era of New Revival," as President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov has dubbed his reign.
This year, the state media was filled with praise for the Queen of Melons:
Following the tradition, the national holiday, the Turkmen Melon Day is widely and solemnly celebrated throughout Turkmenistan on the second Sunday of August. Serving as a hymn to diligence and constructive talent of Turkmen melon growers, it has gained a new scale and content today, in the epoch of new Revival and become a vivid embodiment of historic changes taking place in the ancient Turkmen land.
The holiday involves elaborate festivals, concerts, scientific conferences, displays and so on, prompting the State News Agency of Turkmenistan to claim that there is likely no agricultural holiday in the world of this nature celebrated so extensively at a national level. And they may be right.
Turkmenistan boasts 420 melon types that scientists claim have existed for 14 centuries, and 200 of these are still grown today.
This year, the state horticulturalists outdid themselves.
According to the daily state newspaper Neitralnyi Turkmenistan, Omurguly Akhmedov from Lebap province, the oldest melon cultivator in Turkmenistan, has bred three special melons this year: one named "Ruhnama," after the cult book imposed by past dictator Saparmurat Niyazov which still remains a required subject for university exams; another called "Arkedag," which is the title increasingly used to refer to Berdymukhamedov, and which means "Protective Mountain" or "Protector" and a third, a watermelon, called "President."
The melon called "Ruhnama" is notable for the pink color of its pulp, which took a decade to breed; usually the Turkmen melons are yellow inside. It is said to be "resistant to drought, crop diseases and pests."
Turkmens have a lot of innovative uses for their ubiquitous melons. For example, the Iyigit and Turga chemical factories use melon in dishwashing liquid, baby wipes and car air fresheners.