Bayramaly, a town located on the southern outskirts, shares a border with the ancient Merv archaeological sites, which are situated just 30 kilometers east of Mary along the road to Turkmenabat. The town’s main bazaar lies opposite the walls of two relatively recent cities within the Merv complex: Abdullah Khan Kala, built during the Timurid period, and the later Bairam Ali Khan Kala. The decline of Merv in the following decades can be attributed to the death of Biram Ali Khan. Typically, tourists only pass through Bayramaly on their way to Merv, but the town itself holds its own significance.

In 1887, approximately 90,000 hectares of land near the ancient Merv ruins were designated as the Murgab Imperial Estate, where a royal residence was constructed. A small town developed near the newly established Bayramaly railway station to cater to the estate’s needs. Bayramaly boasts the most well-preserved center from the Tsarist era among all towns in Turkmenistan. During the Soviet era, the former royal lodge was transformed into a sanatorium focused on treating kidney ailments, leveraging the region’s reputedly dry and sunny climate, which is particularly notable even within the overall dry and sunny environment of Turkmenistan.

Bayramaly Sights

As visitors enter the town, they are welcomed by a roadside monument adorned with a sun motif, symbolizing the source of the town’s fame during the 20th century. To the north of the town, the quiet and picturesque center features single-story buildings from the Tsarist era, surrounded by trees. Some of these buildings resemble the architectural style of the royal lodge, showcasing pavilion-like structures, intricate brick patterns on the facades, decorative crenellations, and subtle buttresses. One particular building, located near the sanatorium’s north gate, bears resemblance to a mosque, featuring a domed roof and a brick minaret. However, it currently serves as the local tax office.

Bayramaly Ortodox Church

Located to the northwest, the Russian Orthodox Church in the town has a square layout and a robust appearance. It features two main entrances situated on the north and west walls, both protected by porches and adorned with arched wooden doors. These entrances are supported by stout columns that resemble halved barrels. Inside the church, the walls are strengthened by interconnected arches, embellished with medallions depicting saints and intricate floral designs. The flooring is tiled with star patterns, adding an elegant touch to the worn-out building. 

The central round tower, now topped with fluted iron instead of its original dome, serves as a prominent feature. Local residents claim that an underground passageway was constructed between the royal lodge and the church, enabling the tsar to attend services without having direct contact with the public.

Bayramali Central Bazaar

Central Bazaar stands on the north side of town towards ancient Merv. Food and drink are offered on long brick benches, around set up the stalls under low covers of billowing cotton supported on poles, providing the place a mystical air. Bazaar offers more like carpets and handicraft items from the northeast corner of the bazaar, close to a row of caged ducks and poultry.

Bayramaly town bazar, Turkmenistan
Bayramaly town, Turkmenistan

Bayramaly cottonseed factory museum

As you explore Bayramaly, you cannot help but notice a slightly unpleasant odor lingering in the air. This smell emanates from the cottonseed oil factory, which is located in the northern part of town, not far from the church. Adjacent to the factory’s main entrance, you’ll find the Cottonseed Factory Museum, a rare surviving example in Turkmenistan of a Soviet-era museum that celebrates the accomplishments of the town’s primary industrial enterprise. The cotton factory itself dates back to 1903 but shifted its focus to the production of cottonseed oil in 1936. The museum, established in 1931, occupies a single spacious room dedicated to the factory’s history.

Inside the museum, the walls are adorned with evocative paintings created by Yuri Artamonov, which are displayed on white cotton cloth. These artworks depict scenes related to the life of the factory, mostly inspired by photographs. For example, you’ll see a depiction of the factory’s fire brigade from the 1930s, accompanied by their brass bell, as well as a procession led by the local football team, Pishevik (‘Food Industry Worker’), with red flags, banners, and even a small barrage balloon bearing the letters ‘USSR’. The museum also showcases artifacts such as the shirt worn by a man named Kulkov, who laid the foundation brick of the new factory, and a salary list from 1903, revealing that the highest monthly wage was 15 roubles. Additionally, you’ll find a desk that was once used by an early factory director and a trophy cabinet celebrating the factory’s sporting achievements. The banners and shields on display feature motifs heavy with symbolism, including cotton, grapes, carpet designs, hammers and sickles, wheat, Lenin’s head, the sun, and the world. There are also photographs portraying solemn-faced children at the factory’s kindergarten and a yellowed newspaper article about Ovezgul Berdieva, a factory worker elected to the Supreme Soviet of Turkmenistan in 1961. At the center of the room, you can observe the equipment used for making cottonseed oil, where the seeds are heated and squeezed to extract the oil.

Bayramaly Sanatorium

Situated directly south of the town center, the Bayramaly Sanatorium, which was later renamed after Saparmurat Turkmenbashy, holds its position. Constructed in the 1930s, the sanatorium gained widespread recognition throughout the Soviet Union for its specialized treatment of kidney diseases during the summer months. It combined the advantages of the hot, arid climate with a diet emphasizing the consumption of watermelons. In close proximity to the sanatorium, the accommodation blocks from the 1970s present a rather unattractive appearance. Within the sanatorium grounds, an abandoned concrete open-air cinema building serves as a reminder of the bygone Soviet holidaymakers, evoking a sense of nostalgia.

The northern part of the sanatorium complex reveals a hidden gem—the tsarist royal lodge, which now serves as part of the sanatorium administration. This graceful, single-story brick building features a notable entrance on the east side, adorned with arches and flanked by two small octagonal towers resembling mock minarets. Just north of the lodge, one can sense the echoes of the former grandeur of the Murgab Imperial Estate through the presence of a conifer-fringed driveway that runs from the northern entrance of the sanatorium complex. Along this pathway, there is an elegant former entrance, which currently displays a prominent placard showcasing President Niyazov’s book, Ruhnama. Additionally, a symbol from the intervening era can be found nearby—an exquisitely silver-painted Soviet-era statue depicting a healthy mother and her joyous daughter, symbolizing vitality and well-being.

Sights near Bayramaly

Page updated 14.2.2023

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