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2024  N3-4(229-230)
Nowruz is always celebrated in a cheerful, tasty and colorful manner in Turkmenistan. The celebration even has its own permanent and iconic place – Nowruz Valley in the eastern suburbs of Ashgabat. For a number of years, large-scale celebrations have been held in this area in honor of the spring holiday – International Nowruz Day, bringing together guests not only from all over the country but from near and far abroad.
It would seem that there are traditions for celebration of these events, and it is difficult to surprise the demanding audience with anything. And yet, the annual festival takes on new shades, blossoms in a new way, just as spring itself, which invariably comes to replace winter, whose beauty cannot be repeated. This holiday was distinguished by a special poetic atmosphere that enveloped Nowruz Valley and seemed to hold it in its lyrical arms. The 300th anniversary of Magtymguly Fraghi, celebrated this year, set the tone of the festivities that featured events that reflected the poetic world of the classic of Turkmen literature, captivating with its magical purity, stunning with deep thoughts and feelings and a special perception of nature and human life in it.
The area adjacent to the impromptu village that is traditionally erected in this place in the days of Nowruz appeared in a pink and white shroud of flowering trees. The blue mountain range on the horizon and the landscape of the green valley with white yurts served as the natural scenery of the celebration. There were also high swings as an indispensable festive attribute of welcoming spring. “Flying” on them is considered a ritual that cleanses a person spiritually. The ancient history of the Akhal valley, where a high level of farming flourished centuries ago, was reminiscent of the symbolic medieval open gates to welcome good friends.
The guests were greeted by children and gray-haired elders. Artists presented a theatrical song and musical composition filled with bright national flavor and personifying the country’s happy present day. It was followed by a big Turkmen toy, a real folk festival with all the traditions inherent in Nowuz – songs and dances, generous treats, demonstrations of decorative and applied arts and ancient wedding and other rituals, captivating by their beauty, talentedly presented by artistic groups of the Turkmen capital and the Akhal region of the country.
The feeling of belonging to the era when Magtymguly lived and worked was created by all kinds of household items of that time. Today, after so many years, these are not just things, but living witnesses and magnificent storytellers about the lives of fathers and grandfathers. For example, one could see ancient household utensils, dishes skillfully made from wood, ancient tools, musical instruments, and clothing. The exhibition of magnificent embroideries, fabrics, and carpets created in the best national traditions by both famous Turkmen masters and young talents told visitors about the talent and hard work of the Turkmens, their traditions of handicraft that are passed on from generation to generation. Needlewomen demonstrated the process of making Turkmen felt rug – felting, dyeing wool, spinning, reed weaving.
Another exhibition presented accessories for the magnificent Akhal-Teke horses, including special decorations that are made for the heavenly Argamaks. One could admire the magnificent works by Turkmen jewelers. It is known that in his youth Magtymguly became familiar with the crafts of saddlery, blacksmithing and jewelry, which he mastered to perfection. The poet not only made a ring for his beloved girl Mengli, but also personally engraved on it the name of his beloved, to whom he dedicated many beautiful poems.
Modern Turkmen girls in bright national dresses, richly decorated with silver jewelry, also evoked admiration and worthy poetic comparisons with Mengli, whom the poet called the sun and the moon, the distant starry ocean. Their images, as well as the beauty of their native land, were captured in the open air by young painters. This poetic picture was supported by many art groups that performed beautiful songs on the versus by Magtymguly Fraghi.
Theatrical compositions on historical themes are the characteristic feature of the celebration in Nowruz Valley. But this year, the historical associations were very specific and directly related to the life of the great poet, as well as the events that took place a few days later on the same spring meadow – the start of events of the year “Anau – the Cultural Capital of the Turkic World – 2024”.
One of the episodes of Magtymguly’s life performed by theater artists unfolded in front of a symbolic building – the medieval Idris Baba madrasah, where the classic of Turkmen literature received his education. Theater artists also recreated the images of scientists, astronomers and philosophers, including archaeologist Raphael Pampelli, who was one of the first in the world to recognize the Anau culture. Archaeological finds were presented, including ceramics, grains of white wheat cultivated in these fertile fields. From time immemorial, scientists and educated people have enjoyed special respect in the Turkmen land. Suffice it to remember that the geography of Magtymguly’s wanderings was also extensive. He searched for truth, studying at the best madrasahs of Khiva and Bukhara, visited the Caucasus, Afghanistan, Iran and many other lands, where he became acquainted with the culture, customs and governance system of other states.
The topic of special importance of musical art in the life of Turkmens was depicted in a mini-play that recreated the legendary scene of the musical contest from the feature film “Shukur-bakhshi” based on the story by Nurmurat Sarykhanov. Ancient melodies and songs composed on the versus by Magtymguly about love, native and close to the heart, performed by modern bakhshi musicians were a wonderful backdrop for the improvised performance.
Children enthusiastically competed in various folk games and amusements. The young men demonstrated their bravery and agility in various competitions. Ethnographic scenes presented customs and traditions associated with celebration of Nowruz, animal husbandry and gardening, and cooking festive meals. A separate space was dedicated to a real gastronomic vernissage that amazed visitors with the abundance of dastarkhan full of food, fruits and national cuisine prepared by masters of culinary art, who invited the guests to taste it. One could see the process of cooking the ritual meal “semeni”.
Representatives of the fauna – the proud “ships of the desert” – camels and loyal friends of the Turkmens – the Alabai dogs, whose upbringing is an integral part of the traditional culture of the Turkmens, as well as magnificent Akhal-Teke horses, hunting falcons, domestic and even Red Book animals, perfectly played the role of the ethnographic background on Nowruz Valley, who attracted special attention from the guests and did not object taking part in photo sessions. Especially lucky was the newborn porcupine who was named after the place and day of birth – Nowruz.
The performance by skilled riders on beautiful horses was the most spectacular event of the day. The daring Turkmen horsemen of the national equestrian games group “Galkynysh” are the laureates of many international festivals. To the sound of music, they demonstrated their incomparable skills on magnificent Akhal-Teke horses as well as the beauty and grace of heavenly Argamaks.
Turkmenistan’s masters of art presented their art gifts to the festival participants. The concert program featured musical, choreographic and folklore compositions and vocal performances. Folk melodies, songs and dances blended harmoniously with modern rhythms. Colorful performances presented the rich heritage of the Turkmen people and versatility of their art talents. The celebration continued with the demonstration of authentic ethnographic rituals and customs in the evening in the light of the fires.
Nowruz has become the world cultural treasury among the humanistic traditions. It carries the highest spiritual and moral values of human civilization. And many participants and guests of the colorful Nowruz celebration, happening at a time of special splendor of nature, could fully sense it.


©Turkmenistan Analytic magazine, 2005