Turkmenistan is the southernmost republic of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and slightly larger than California in territory – making it the fourth largest of the former Soviet republics after Russia, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine. The terrain is mainly flat with 80% desert, low mountains make up the border to Iran where the highest point is to be found, Mountain Ayrybaba (since 2004 officially named Beýik Saparmyrat Türkmenbaşy belentligi, Mount of the Great Saparmyrat Turkmenbashi, see political situation). The lowest point is the Akjagaýa Depression in the Northwest with Sarygamysh Lake which at its shallewest is at 60 meters below sea level.
The Turkmen who make up the major population group speak Turkmen a branch of the Turkic languages. Other than in Turkmenistan, Turkmen also is spoken in Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, Syria, Iraq and North Caucasus. Muslims constitute about 90% of the population, 9% are Eastern Orthodox Christians.
There are two things that Turkmenistan is very proud of, their Akhal-Teke horses and their carpets. The Akhal-Teke horses, also called “Golden Horses” are known for their speed, endurance, intelligence and distinctive metallic sheen. They are one of the oldest existing horse breeds with about 6’600 horses around the world. Read more and see pictures on Wikipedia. The rugs were originally produced by nomadic tribes and can be identified by tribe due to their typical patterns and geometrical designs . The different carpet patterns of the five regions of Turkmenistan can be found on the Statue of Neutrality.