Ashgabat (Turkmen: Aşgabat, also Ashkabat, Ashkhabad, Ashgabad, etc) is the capital of Turkmenistan, surrounded by Ahal Province.
Ashgabat is a showpiece capital. It has been designed, at the cost of billions of dollars, to show the world about the glories and accomplishments of the Turkmen. The city looks like none other on Earth – a thoroughly artificial collection of white marble buildings across a long, dry valley. At sunrise or sunset, there's a beauty to this uniform, outsized ambition, as if the set of a science-fiction film suddenly became an actual human settlement. During the scorching days, when walking from monument to monument across the shadeless streets, or trying to locate anything resembling normal human life in the center, Terry Gilliam's Brazil seems like the most accurate comparison. Image control is taken very seriously. You will encounter many, many security guards and policemen with a strong opinion about how to behave and not behave in the capital. Don't take pictures of the presidential compound or military complexes (a large barracks is right next to the palace). Avoid areas with roadblocks or where it seems like senior officials may be present. Most other buildings are generally OK – although this could change at any time. Outside of the monuments, best to snap a quick picture and move on.