The capital of Turkmenistan has been recognized by Guinness for having the highest density of white marble buildings in the world. Ashgabat boasts 543 new buildings clad with over 48 million square feet of marble, according to Guinness.
The former Soviet satellite state underwent a dramatic architectural transformation after independence under the leadership of the authoritarian “President for Life” Saparmurat Niyazov, who died in 2006. Concrete soviet blocks were razed and replaced with marble-clad government buildings and housing complexes in a garish display of Turkmenistan’s immense natural gas wealth.
Niyazov’s successor, Gurganguly Berdymukhamedov, attached himself to the record by adding the honorific “Distinguished Architect of Turkmenistan” to his current list of titles.
The Guinness website says that if laid out flat there would be over 10 square feet of marble for every 50 square feet of land in the city. In 2013 Turkmenistan was ranked the fifth most miserable country in the world.
This isn’t the first time that the closed-off country has won itself a new record. It previously won the record for the world’s tallest unsupported flagpole (a record now held by Tajikistan), the largest architectural star and the largest indoor Ferris wheel. Its other conspicuous projects include a $1 billion resort complex on the deserted shores of the Caspian Sea.