This is a blog I never thought I’d be writing. 5 years ago I would have thought this would be a crazy and boring topic. But now it’s not only relevant, but exciting!
1. Sha Coffee
This one will always hold a special place in our hearts, as it was the first of its kind and really seems to have started the trend of coffee culture in Ashgabat, or even in Turkmenistan. The first one is inside one of the odd square white buildings in the middle of the Alley of Inspiration – not an expected setting for a cool café, but that in itself I think adds to its charm! Mis-matched seating, wooden tables, exposed wire lighting, clever and funky artwork, and waiters in denim aprons, as soon as you walk in you could be in London, Berlin or Melbourne. And that’s exactly the case – the guy that opened this café (and has gone on to open two more with the same name) lived in London for a year, and thought “why shouldn’t Ashgabat have a cool café?”, so he made it happen! And plenty others followed suit.
2. Melbourne Coffee
In Berkarar shopping centre, it’s actually just a couple of doors down from the 2 nd Sha Coffee, next to the food court. And it’s pretty much exactly what you’d expect – ignore the white marble shopping centre you’re inside and you could be in a trendy café in the northern suburbs of Melbourne.
3. Uzum Café
Conveniently located directly across the road from the Ak Altyn, where most of our tours stay, this is another hip café. With a lovely outdoor area backing onto the tree-lined street, full-length glass walls, couches, funky bookshelves and a baby grand piano (!!!), this is a really cool little place. They also do theoretically have wi-fi here (which is not common place anywhere in Ashgabat), but it certainly can’t be relied on. In fact, I’m sitting in Uzum Café right now, writing this blog as I wait for something to load!
4. Mummy Coffee
Again in a bizarre location, you can find this little hole in the wall coffee place at the back of the newly opened Tashkent Park. With giant Uzbek teapots and a replica Tashkent TV Tower just outside, you’re not really expecting a trendy coffee shop, but that’s exactly what you’ll find. The logo and name are a bit on the nose, but other than that, you could be in any modern cosmopolitan city once you step inside.
There are numerous other cool coffee shops popping up all over the place, especially tiny little places with just a couple of seats – very hipster. Can’t wait to see what the coffee culture in Ashgabat is going to grow into in the next few years, and maybe at some point it will even spread to other places in Turkmenistan!
But don't worry, it's not all hipsterville in Ashgabat quite yet - there are still plenty of old-school Turkmen oddities. Here are just a couple of funny little examples:
Pictured above left: Probably one of the first hilarious examples of this type of thing you'll come across - at the very end of the boarding gates at the airport, the layout of this cafe possibly could have been better thought out.
Pictured above middle: Breakfast at the Ak Altyn Hotel. A worn tablecloth, some faded images of unappetising food items framed on the walls, a TV playing the Ashgabat channel, and a wholey uninspiring breakfast. Wonderful.
Pictured above right: I think someone googled "how to set up a food court" and found that there are meant to be booths and seats. Whether there is space to get into the booths wasn't mentioned and isn't important.