Imagine the following scenario in the year 2200: The world has been destroyed by us humans. Nothing is left besides the desert you are driving through. Suddenly, rising out of the ashes, white marble buildings appear at the horizon.

You have arrived in Ashgabat.

We are not living in the year 2200. The desert surrounding Ashgabat is natural and does not result from some humankind disaster. Nevertheless, while visiting the capital of Turkmenistan, I constantly felt as if I had arrived in the middle of a dystopian novel. I walked along eight-lane boulevards on which I didn’t see cars. I strolled through empty parks where I spotted only one lonely employee who cut the bushes with small scissors. From my bus window, I watched people clean the sidewalks with tiny brushes.…

Out of all the countries I have been to, Turkmenistan is the weirdest one.

It is one of the least visited countries in the world and only receives a couple thousands of tourists each year. If you are going here, it means that you have managed to get one of the few tourist visas that the government gives out. Either that, or you are an expat who has come to work in Ashgabat. But either way, you now have the chance to explore one of the least visited countries in the world, one that pretends to be open to tourism but shuts itself off from the rest of the world as much as possible.

“Dictators do not want tourists,” our guide said.…