Ashgabat is the capital and the largest city of Turkmenistan in Central Asia, situated between the Karakum Desert and the Kopet Dag mountain range. It 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 throughly 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.