An astonishing golden statue of President Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov of Turkmenistan riding a golden horse hit headlines this week — but it’s not central Asia’s only impressive and slightly bizarre structure.
The capital cities of both Turkmenistan (Ashgabat) and Kazakhstan (Astana) all have architecture and statues you’ll struggle to find anywhere else in the world.
These are some of the more other-worldly statues and buildings built in the two cities since the fall of the Soviet Union.
Here's the latest golden statue of Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, the President of Turkmenistan. His likeness is sat on a giant golden horse.
Turkmenistan's monument of neutrality also featured a golden statue of Niyazov -- until a few years ago, this one even rotated to face the sun.
They're not all president-themed. This is the Palace of Happiness, a marriage registry office built to commemorate 20 years of Turkmenistan's independence.
Berdymukhamedov's face has been slowly replacing Niyazov's around the capital -- here is his portrait being airbrushed off a building in 2006.
But much of Niyazov's influence remains -- including this statue of his book, the Ruhnama. It is mandatory to read his book in Turkmenistan's schools.
Here's the Ruhnama monument from a slightly different angle. Every evening the monument opens and a passage from the book is played aloud.
Kazakhstan's planned capital city Astana is another source of gleaming and strange architecture. Here you can see the ball-topped Bayterek monument.
Astana's Khan Shatyr is an enormous tent, billed as the largest in the world. The structure was completed in 2006 with UK architect Norman Foster in charge.
The palace was opened in 2004 and looks a little like the US Capitol Building, and is one of the less off-the-wall structures in Astana.
The Palace of Peace and Reconciliation is a little more unconventional -- like the enormous tent, the design was led by Foster & Partners.
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