Turkmenistan on Thursday inaugurated Arkadag, a $ 5-billion "smart" city built in honour of former strongman leader Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, cementing one of the most extraordinary personality cults in the world.
Serdar Berdymukhamedov, his son and current president, unveiled the city around 30 kilometres (18 miles) southwest of the capital Ashgabat during a grandiose ceremony attended by AFP journalists.
The ex-Soviet Central Asian nation is one of the most secretive countries in the world, and access for foreign media is extremely rare.
The new city built in the foothills of the picturesque Kopet-Dag mountains is named after Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, who ruled over the country between 2006 and 2022 and now carries the title Hero Arkadag (Protector).
"Glory to Arkadag and Serdar, glory to the Turkmen leader," participants dressed in traditional Turkmen clothes chanted during the ceremony.
The former president, who turned 66 on Thursday, remains the real decision-maker in the country, observers say. The elder Berdymukhamedov was making the hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia and was not present at the ceremony.
Rights groups have accused Turkmenistan of channelling money from its gas profits on lavish projects promoting Berdymukhamedov's personality cult with little benefit for the broader population.
Arkadag, which is in an earthquake zone, will eventually have a population of around 73,000, authorities have said.
The city is dotted with monuments including a sculpture in honour of Berdymukhamedov atop an Akhal-Teke horse, his favourite breed.
Officials have billed Arkadag as a "city of the future", adding that "green" technologies were used in its construction.
An employee of the construction and architecture ministry said that Berdymukhamedov had closely overseen the project and provided his "valuable recommendations."
"Thanks to his efforts, a beautiful city has appeared on the land of our valiant ancestors," the employee said on condition of anonymity.