We have been in Turkmenistan for about three weeks now, and have met many new people and seen many new things.
Our first real “outing” in-country was to a mosque just outside of Ashgabat. It is the shrine of Seyit Jamal ad-Din. It was an architectural monument of the XV century, but now lies in ruins because of the 1948 earthquake. It is nevertheless stunningly beautiful, and many Turkmen make pilgrimages there.
Before the earthquake, the shrine was known for its distinctive and ornately decorated mosaic – depicting two dragons – over the central arch. Today, the base of the pillars of the mosque are still visible.
Pieces of the mosaic that covered the archway are scattered about. They give you a sense of just how beautiful this place was.
Amongst the rubble, you see trinkets everywhere. Parents leave these while praying for the birth of children – a key if you want a boy, and a hairpin if you want a girl. I’m told this practice is unconventional for Islam, and stems from local traditional beliefs.
After visiting the shrine, many families stop at a nearby building to eat. There is no restaurant, but out-door stoves and large pans are provided for preparation of foods.
No matter what your religion, the Shrine of Seyit Jamal ad-Din is a beautiful and serene place to visit.