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Turkmenistan Opens Futuristic City Dedicated to Leader

Turkmenistan opens futuristic "smart" city Arkadag, dedicated to former president Berdymukhamedov, featuring all-white buildings, electric vehicles, and a population of 73,000.

Turkmenistan Opens Futuristic City Dedicated to Leader

People attend the opening ceremony for the new city of Arkadag, dedicated to the country's former president Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, in Arkadag, Turkmenistan June 29, 2023. REUTERS/Marat Gurt

ARKADAG, Turkmenistan (Reuters) - Turkmenistan opened a new, futuristic "smart" city on Thursday dedicated to its former president Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov.

The city is named Arkadag, or protector, an unofficial title by which Turkmen media have long referred to Berdymukhamedov, who on Thursday marked his 66th birthday by travelling to the Muslim holy city of Mecca.

A source close to the government told Reuters the new city for 73,000 residents cost $3.3 billion to build and there were plans to spend as much again in the next few years.

All the buildings in Arkadag are white and all apartment blocks are seven storeys high, a number considered lucky.

Only electric vehicles are allowed in the city, which features monuments dedicated to a horse of the Turkmen Akhal Teke breed and to Berdymukhamedov himself, and was built close to his native village in southern Turkmenistan.

His son, President Serdar Berdymukhamedov, 41, oversaw the opening ceremony attended by foreign officials. Some brought presents, such as an electric car from Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan.

The elder Berdymukhamedov ran the gas-rich desert nation of six million for 15 years until 2022, becoming the centre of an elaborate personality cult where, for example, all male civil servants followed their leader's example when deciding whether or not to dye greying hair.

He passed the leadership to his son but retains many powers as the chairman of the People's Council.