Welcome to Eastern Turkmenistan
Squeezed between the inhospitable Karakum desert and the rugged Afghan frontier, the fertile plains of eastern Turkmenistan have long been an island of prosperity in Central Asia. The rise of civilisations began in the Bronze Age, reaching their climax with the wondrous city of Merv. In the 13th century invading Mongols put paid to centuries of accumulated wealth, but even today the region continues to outpace the rest of Turkmenistan, thanks mainly to a thriving cotton business.
There is not much left of Merv today, but its crumbling ruins are well worth a visit, assuming you travel with a knowledgeable guide.