A new falcon-shaped terminal has opened at Ashgabat International Airport in Turkmenistan at a cost of US$2.3bn. The roof of the building resembles the bird of prey, with its head in the center and its wings outstretched either side. It is also the symbol of the country’s national carrier, Turkmenistan Airways.
Set over five floors, the terminal is said to be capable of handling 1,600 passengers every hour – which comes as a surprise to many, as the Central Asian desert nation is said to only attract 100,000 tourists a year and has a strict visa policy, although more visitors are expected when the country hosts the Asian Indoor Games in September 2017.
The airport is now the biggest in Central Asia, with a footprint of almost 1,200 hectares. The airside international departures area includes duty free shops, restaurants and children’s play facilities, with a hotel on the terminal’s third floor. Self check-in and passport control e-gates can be found throughout. In total, there are 53 elevators, 18 moving walkways, 41 automated escalators and telescopic gangways for easy boarding.
Apparently the terminal is part of a bold move to turn Ashgabat into an international transport hub, reducing the economy’s reliance on its exports of natural gas. This was confirmed by Turkmenistan’s president, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, in his speech at the grand opening: “We have all of the opportunities to become a transport bridge facilitating economic cooperation between Europe, the Asia-Pacific region and South Asia.”
There are some unusual tourist attractions in Ashgabat for visitors to enjoy. The city holds Guinness World Records for its high density of marble-clad buildings and also the world’s largest indoor Ferris wheel, measuring 312ft in height – the opening ceremony for the airport coincided with the presentation of another Guinness World Record, this time for the biggest ornaments image, which can be seen in the main passenger terminal.