Tolkuchka Bazaar – Ashkhabad, Turkmenistan
The World’s Premier Carpet Marketplace
All color seems to have drained from Turkmenistan’s dusty post-Soviet capital, but the Sunday market in Ashkhabad (the City of Love), an archetypal Asian bazaar as Cecil B. de Mille would have created it, is filled with a cast of thousands. It’s a throwback to the marketplaces that for millennia have dotted this area, which was once crisscrossed by the ancient network of trade routes collectively known as the Silk Road.
Most foreigners now come for the sheer entertainment value – you can buy anything here, but the draw for centuries has been carpets. Marco Polo wrote home about these beauties, commenting on their intricacy, quality, and rich colors.
The Tolkuchka Bazaar is still one of the world’s premier sources of rugs for serious buyers with a trained eye. Most are handwoven locally in the age-old tradition, but factory-produced alternatives with synthetic dyes have recently made an appearance. Although the style of carpets prevalent here draws its name from Uzbekistan’s city of Bukhara, these rugs have always been made in Turkmenistan and were traditionally used to cover the floors and walls of the nomadic Turkmen’s yurts.