Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov isn’t known for unscripted public appearances -- outside of Turkmenistan, anyway. Inside the country, state media typically goes to great lengths to show the country’s “protector
” in what are billed as impromptu meetings with locals in arcades, markets, or, as was the case last week, on a crowded bus in the country’s new tourism hub.
The latest installment happened in the Caspian resort town of Awaza, where Turkmen state TV caught up with Berdymukhammedov surveying the fruits of the hundreds of millions of dollars his government has poured into luxury hotels and other high-end tourism amenities.
In the report, Berdymukhammedov “unexpectedly” hops on a bus full of tourists who praise his leadership and thank him for essentially everything good in the land -- including the bus. In addition to the accolades, the president was also on the receiving end of two lovely (and patriotic) poems recited by a pair of young girls -- one of which goes: “Turkmenistan is blossoming; its light is shining; and in your hands the people are happy.”
No doubt about where the buses come from in Turkmenistan.
After the poetry recital, Berdymukhammedov held a brief question-and-answer session where passengers showered him with thanks and praise. One woman said meeting him on the bus was “the luckiest day” for her family, who had ventured to Awaza after seeing it on TV. “It’s even more beautiful in person,” she can be heard telling the president.
The segment also shows the bus ticket collector standing up to thank Berdymukhammedov for the bus the group is riding on, noting that it is one of 10 given by the president to the city. It’s unlikely that the gift was lost on anyone, though, as the front of the coach bears a picture of the president and a banner that reads “Gift of the Honorable President.”
Watch: Turkmen state TV report on the president visting Awaza
It’s not clear exactly why Berdymukhammedov was visiting Awaza, but the town needs a boost. As RFE/RL reported in July
, the town’s newly constructed luxury hotels have failed to attract the sun-seeking masses. Apparently little has changed, as a second report showing the president greeting beachgoers from a distance leaves the viewer to believe there is still plenty of room to pitch an umbrella.
-- Zach Peterson & RFE/RL's Turkmen Service
Have a silly dictator story? E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org or share it with us on Twitter @sillydictators