Turkmenistan claims largest Ferris wheel record

The Central Asian nation of Turkmenistan has earned another spot in the record books with the world's largest Ferris wheel in an enclosed space.

State newspaper Neutral Turkmenistan reported Saturday that Amanda Mochan of the Guinness Book of World Records was on hand for the unveiling of the Ferris wheel, which stands 47 meters (154 feet) high and cost $90 million to construct.

This natural gas-rich nation has developed a fixation for record-breaking. In 2001, it was recognized as having woven the world's largest carpet. In 2008, it claimed the title for the world's tallest flagpole, although it has since been overtaken by North Korea, Azerbaijan and Tajikistan.

The 24-cabin Ferris wheel is enclosed in a glass-fronted snow-white steel structure that also houses the Alem entertainment center. Facilities include a bowling alley, two cinema screens, a restaurant, and a planetarium equipped with star-gazing equipment.

Over two decades, since former Soviet Turkmenistan gained independence, the capital, Ashgabat, has been transformed from a drab provincial backwater into a city packed with grand and idiosyncratic buildings.

The body of the structure housing the Ferris wheel is built in the shape of the eight-sided star of Oguz Khan — a legendary Turkic Khan described as the progenitor of Turkmens — and is decorated in national motifs. The roundness of the building, which is topped by a 17-meter spire, lends it the appearance of a colossal sundial hovering above a massive pedestal.

State media reported that the observation wheel was built by Turkish company Polimeks, which accounts for the vast bulk of major projects in Ashgabat together with Bouygues of France.

Polimeks built Ashgabat's Arch of Neutrality, a three-legged 75-meter-high arch topped by a gold-plated statue of the idiosyncratic late President Saparmurat Niyazov that rotated so that it would always face the sun. That monument has since been moved to the edge of the city, and Niyazov no longer rotates.

Turkmenistan has been on something of a record-busting drive for years now.

In 2001, Guinness gave its seal of approval to the largest carpet in the world, which measured 301 square meters and weighed 1,200 kilograms. Then in 2008, it was the turn of a flagpole measuring 133 meters tall.

In 2010, the Oguzkhan 27-hectare (67 acre) fountain complex, which comprised 27 cascades, was recognized as the largest of its kind.

And for another record that few people probably even knew existed, Turkmenistan last year secured the prize for the world's largest architectural representation of a star, which forms the body of the 211-meter-tall Ashgabat television center.