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Ashgabat, the capital of independent (from October 27, 1991) Turkmenistan, has borne this name since 1882. According to archaeological data, settlements belonging to the Great Silk Road have existed on the territory of the present city since at least the end of the first millennium B.C. The chronological distance between them and the present city is so great, that we are not able to speak about any townbuilding continuity. That connection traces back to the beginning of XIX century, when there was a Turkmen urban settlement here, called Ashgabat. The population of the city is about 700,000 and is situated between the Kara Kum desert and the Kopet Dag mountain range.
There are cities, known at once by a unique and symbolic building or monument, and this is the case of Ashgabat and the Arch of Neutrality. This monument was built in the centre of the Turkmen capital, in just one year. The idea behind this monument is connected with an important event in the nation's history, which took place in New York on December 12, 1995. At the meeting of the UN General Assembly, the acceptance of a special resolution was voted and was entitled «Permanent Neutrality of Turkmenistan».
The arch was projected by the architect, Erol Tabanja and it was consigned to the city on December 12,1998.
The inspiration for the Arch of Neutrality was the traditional Turkmen trivet — a stable tripod, used for holding a boiler, under which a fire is kindled.
In the project the trivet was transformed into three widely curved pylons connected by disks and rings of different diameters and thickness. These are the viewing sites, located on different levels, where at any time of day a perfect panorama of Ashgabat opens up. Visitors are transported to the first level by funiculars, while the third is equipped with ladders as a fire precaution measure. Here, at a height of 21.5 meters, there is a circular cafe-bar with a panoramic view. The transparent lift takes visitors to 50 meters, where the upper viewing platform is situated. At 63 meters, there is a 12-meter golden statue of Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov (also known and generally referred to as Turkmenbashi, or leader of the Turkmens). This statue rotates in order to always face the sun during daylight hours. It is said to be made of pure gold.
The Arch of Neutrality reaches a total of 75 meters, making it the highest building in Turkmenistan, above the 600 year old Kutlug-Timur minaret.

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Additional Photos by Attila Szili (atus) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2069 W: 207 N: 4541] (15878)
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