Bounded by the Caspian Sea in the west and the Amu-Darya river to the east, Turkmenistan is sparsely populated, the major reason being that four-fifths of the country is waterless desert. The Karakum (Black Sands), one of the largest sand deserts in the world, fills the entire central region of the country with great crescent-shaped sand dunes and cracked, baked-clay surfaces. To the south, the Karakum is fringed by the Kopet Dag (Lots of Mountains), an earthquake prone range that forms a formidable 1500km (930mi) natural border with Iran and, farther east, Afghanistan. Smaller ranges of the north-west edge of the desert mark
The hottest months are July and August, when temperatures occasionally reach 40-45 degrees Centigrade. The best season to visit is from September to June. Autumn abounds in fresh fruits: melons, water-melons, grapes, etc. Weather is warm and pleasant, with few rains. There is almost no snow in winter, with temperatures almost never going below 0 degrees Centigrade.
4,775,544 (July 2003 est.)
488,100 sq km
Turkmen 77%, Uzbek 9.2%, Russian 6.7%, Kazakh 2%, other 5.1% (1995)
www.irtat.irThe construction of a $5 billion tourism complexon the Caspian coast (Khazar Lake) was inugurated by Turkmenistan's leader last week.There are also severalother plans for new hotels, fountains, roads and parks in this region to boost the tourist industry of the country.
The Turkmen leader said the government would earmark $1 billion for the project, not far from the Iranian border, while foreign companies including Russia's Itera and France's Bouygues have invested a further $4bn.