apm-wa's diary

Recent diary entries

Happy International Women's Day!

Posted by apm-wa on 8 March 2018 in English (English)

Ann and I celebrated International Women's Day (an official holiday in Turkmenistan, so I had the day off) by exploring two former villages annexed by the city of Ashgabat, so they are now officially neighborhoods: Yalkym and Herrikgala. We collected street names and some POIs, plus shot lots of Mapillary images. Very interesting to see large mansions in these quasi-rural former villages, cheek by jowl with greenhouse operations, plus households with up to 16 cows, and camels. The Mapillary imagery is being uploaded as I type this so please give it a few (or several) hours before looking for it.

Location: Ýalkym, Yalkym, Büzmeýin etraby, Ashgabat, 744010, Turkmenistan

Bad Weather = Bad Imagery

Posted by apm-wa on 4 March 2018 in English (English)

March 1-2 I traveled to Yoloten and Mary, and passed through Tejen, and tried to collect ground-level Mapillary imagery...during and after a rain storm (unusual in arid Turkmenistan, but not unknown in winter). I must apologize for the poor quality imagery. It was just too dark and gloomy. I collected some useful data and have added information to the maps of Yoloten, Mary, and Tejen (including Tejen's only hotel, which charges 6 manat or $1.71 per night). Nonetheless some of the imagery is less than marginal. Sorry! At least I added some street names to these towns, as well as some major POIs.

Today Ann and I cruised the former vilage of Gokje, now officially a neighborhood of Ashgabat since it was annexed, and collected street names, POIs, and fresh GPS traces for streets that have been created in the past year or so. Some streets had absolutely no signage at all. Not sure how we'll find the names for them.

Location: Atçapar köçesi, Ýolöten, Mary Region, Turkmenistan

Ashgabat's western suburbs

Posted by apm-wa on 4 February 2018 in English (English)

Ann and I celebrated my completion (more or less) of drawing the boundaries of Ashgabat's four boroughs (etraplar) with a Sunday drive to some of the villages across the border in Ahal welayat (province) to the west. We collected a few POIs and street names, and did some ground truth. The battery died on our Samsung Galaxy we use for collecting Mapillary imagery and the backup battery was also not fully charged...sorry about that (note to self: remember to recharge ALL batteries the night before).

Location: Bükri, Bukri, Nowata, Ahal, Turkmenistan

Ashgabat's Boroughs Reduced to Four, New Boundaries Need to be Drawn

Posted by apm-wa on 29 January 2018 in English (English)

Here comes another project for me, drawing boundaries of the four boroughs of greater Ashgabat:

January 5, 2018, Ashgabat Borough Boundaries

While at it, I will update the municipal boundary as well. This will take some time, so please be patient!

Location: Seydi (2005) kocesi, Köpetdag etraby, Ashgabat, 744006, Turkmenistan

Proposed Admin Levels for Turkmenistan

Posted by apm-wa on 14 January 2018 in English (English)

Now that I have been editing OSM's Turkmenistan map for nearly three years, I feel confident enough to offer a suggested set of administrative levels. I invite one and all to take a look at my proposal at and offer constructive feedback. This proposal is based on my by now fairly good knowledge of the political structure of Turkmenistan and the way the hierarchy works.

The last two days have been fairly productive. Ann and I went exploring neighorhoods in Gypjak, Choganly, Taze Eyyam, and Taze Zaman where we were missing street names, numbers of schools, and such. We mostly filled in blanks in the map but also updated some streets in Taze Eyyam plus added a few in the new subdivision being built on the west side of Choganly. We visited the unidentified neighborhood on the northwest corner of the demolished former Ruhabat dacha community, which has absolutely no signs, but asked locals what it is called. They identified it as Galkynysh (Turkmen for "renaissance"), a neighborhood subordinate to the Choganly jurisdiction, which is part of the city of Ashgabat.

The Ruhabat dacha community is definitely gone. We drove through part of the territory, and crews were there watering saplings that have been planted where old imagery shows a dacha community.

Location: Bagtyýarlyk etraby, Ahal Region, Turkmenistan

Old Names of Towns Restored

Posted by apm-wa on 7 January 2018 in English (English)

In November, the Turkmen parliament (Mejlis) restored the former name "Kerki" to the town of Atamyrat. I have restored Kerki to the town and its rail station. This week the parliament restored the name "Bäharden" to Baharly. I have changed it, too. It is not clear why the names were changed in the first place, though Atamyrat Niyazov was the father of Turkmenistan's first president, and perhaps Kerki was renamed in his honor at one point. Why Baharden was changed to Baharly some time ago is even less clear.

Here are the notifications in Russian of restoration of the former names:

Location: Bäherden, Baherden, Ahal Region, Turkmenistan

The New Digital Globe Premium Imagery...WOW!

Posted by apm-wa on 4 January 2018 in English (English)

I spent a little while the last two evenings using the new Digital Globe Premium Imagery for Turkmenistan to clean up some parts of Ashgabat plus areas in the far southeast I visited some months back but was unable to map in detail. This new imagery is terrific. I corrected some rail lines and added rail spurs to factories I either visited or rode past, plus added streets. This is good stuff.

Location: Lebap Region, Turkmenistan

Removal of a neighborhood demolished three years ago

Posted by apm-wa on 2 January 2018 in English (English)

Today I interviewed some embassy staffers about the status of the Ruhabat dacha community, which appeared on the OSM map of Ashgabat north of the Altyn Asyr ("new Tolkuchka") bazaar. I have driven past it many times and never seen a house there, but the map shows a significant residential community. It turns out the Turkmen government ordered the entire community demolished in 2013, and by mid-2014 (before I arrived here) it had been eradicated. All houses were torn down and the rubble removed, ostensibly to make way for a new airport and zoological garden, neither of which was built there (the existing airport was expanded, and the zoo was moved to a new site southwest of the city).

I thus removed the point marker for the "town" of Ruhabat, since it has not existed for over three years, and redrew the outlines of the "neighborhood" to correspond to a small village on the northwest corner of the former Ruhabat community. I will have to drive up there to see if that community has a name.

Location: Bagtyýarlyk etraby, Ahal Region, Turkmenistan

New Year's Day mapping in Abadan and Köşi

Posted by apm-wa on 1 January 2018 in English (English)

Ann and I celebrated New Year's Day by taking advantage of the low level of traffic (many revelers evidently slept in) to explore a previously unmapped industrial road southeast of Abadan that serves a large gravel quarry. We collected both GPS traces and Mapillary imagery, and then proceeded northward to collect more street names in Abadan. We also collected some POIs in Köşi, specifically numbers assigned to schools and kindergartens. This is a particular interest of mine since, in the event of a major earthquake, the schools and kindergartens will likely be used as emergency shelters and rally points, and thus places to look for survivors.

We corrected some streets (one mapped as a through street in reality dead ends at what appears to be a school house, for example) and hunted down some streets signs. All in all, we had a moderately productive afternoon, and a pleasant drive.

Another section of Köşi has been demolished, to the north and south of the extension of Magtymguly şaýoly that was extended westward a few months ago. Houses either have been torn down or are in process of demolition. It is not clear what is next for that neighborhood. I removed buildings from OSM that no longer exist, based on this ground truth, and collected some Mapillary imagery to corroborate.

Location: Buzmeyin, Büzmeýin etraby, Ashgabat, Ahal Region, 745220, Turkmenistan

Ground Zero of ARPANet, Grandfather of the Internet (OSM's Platform)

Posted by apm-wa on 23 December 2017 in English (English)

I spent a couple of weeks in Rosslyn, Virginia, on vacation, and stumbled across a sign identifying the site of the building where the U.S. Defense Department's Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) invented the network and first attendant protocols, ARPANet, that are today known as the Internet. I photographed the sign and uploaded it to Mapillary, which for some reason has placed it incorrectly (I'm trying to move it to the correct location but Mapillary advises it "may take some time.")

ARPANet sign on SE corner of North Oak Street and Clarendon Boulevard in Arlington, Virginia

Can anybody tell me what the binary code on the back of the sign means?

Binary code on back of ARPANet sign

Location: Rosslyn, Arlington, Arlington County, Virginia, 22209, United States of America

Washington Post story on subterranean map exhibit

Posted by apm-wa on 27 November 2017 in English (English)


Posted by apm-wa on 26 October 2017 in English (English)


Posted by apm-wa on 23 October 2017 in English (English)

A trip to the Dinosaur Plateau northeast of Koytendag in Lebap velayat allowed me to do some geotagging of the 160-million-year-old dinosaur tracks plus the Kyrk Gyz cave a couple of kilometers west of them. Take a look!

Location: Hojaýpil, Lebap Region, Turkmenistan

Marking Monuments and Statues, Tagging New Construction

Posted by apm-wa on 1 October 2017 in English (English)

The Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games are over so traffic is going back to normal.

Today we (my wife, daughter and I) visited Vatutin Cemetery to collect locations of more grave monuments commemorating prominent people. The Mapillary upload is underway so I should get that done fairly soon. A number of them have streets named after them here in Ashgabat.

I have added a number of historic names of streets in downtown Ashgabat to the OSM database so that folks who use an old historical name will potentially find the entire list of names, wherever I have been able to find them. Not done yet--there are still a few mysteries!

Also, signs are now up on the 11 new retail buildings in the former Gazha neighborhood, though not one of them is open yet. I have tagged the buildings with the names as shown on the outside of the buildings, and added a few driveways and parking lots that serve them. I shot Mapillary imagery at night, capturing all the neon.

Neon-lit shop on Mollanepes köçesi in Ashgabat

Location: Täze Köşi, Büzmeýin etraby, Ashgabat, 744020, Turkmenistan

Quality Control, Part II, and Preserving History

Posted by apm-wa on 5 September 2017 in English (English)

Thanks to Kurban Bayram, I had a four-day weekend. Thanks to the preparations for the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games, central Ashgabat was closed to most traffic for all intents and purposes. So I stayed home and used the nascent gazetteer project to check for typographical errors and other misspellings in the OSM database for Ashgabat. I think I have caught all major typos and other errors.

I also began research into the historical names for the streets in this city, which in some cases have changed several times. To give you an idea of what's involved, here is the entry for Magtymguly, a major thoroughfare, which is now on its fifth name:

Magtymguly (2033) şaýoly
Mervskiy prospekt, Kuropatkinskiy prospekt, prospekt Svobody, prospekt Stalina.

Magtymguly Pyragy (1724-1807) was a Turkmen spiritual leader and philosophical poet who made significant efforts to secure independence and autonomy for his people in the 18th century. He is considered the greatest Turkmen poet, though he wrote in Arabic, Persian, and Chagatai, not in Turkmen. The original name of this street was Mervskiy prospekt as the street led eastward to the city of Merv (modern Mary). It was subsequently changed to Kuropatkinskiy prospekt to honor Russian General Aleksey Kuropatkin (1848-1925), who is credited with the victory over the Teke armies at the Battle of Gökdepe and from 1890 to 1898 was governor of the Transcaspian governate, effectively viceroy of Turkestan. He was Russia’s minister of war from 1898 to 1904, and was blamed for major Russian defeats in the Russo-Japanese War. During the Soviet period the street was named prospekt Svobody (Freedom Prospect) except for a period between 1953 and 1961 when it was renamed in honor of Iosif Stalin.

Location: Magtymguly (2033) sayoly, Köpetdag etraby, Ashgabat, 744005, Turkmenistan

Fresh Imagery for Ashgabat Metropolitan Area, Turkmenistan

Posted by apm-wa on 1 September 2017 in English (English)

Please use this URL in the custom imagery field:{zoom}/{x}/{y}.png

Through MapGive, the Humanitarian Information Unit (HIU) of the U.S. Department of State is providing the OpenStreetMap community access to updated satellite imagery services to help assist with mapping for humanitarian and development programs.

Imagery Details This imagery is from Digital Globe’s WordView-3 satellite, and is made up imagery taken on August 8 and August 14, 2017. The imagery has been orthorectified for terrain corrected geographic precision. Additionally, the imagery has been contrast stretched using a custom stretch and processed into a Tiled Map Service (TMS) for performance.

Overpass Turbo for Quality Control and a Gazetteer

Posted by apm-wa on 30 August 2017 in English (English)

One of my ambitions is to produce a gazetteer of Ashgabat street names so that staff of my embassy (and other foreigners) know for whom or what the streets are named. That would provide insights into local culture as well as merely be interesting for those of us with well honed sense of curiosity. Overpass Turbo provides the tool for generating a list of Ashgabat street names, with the following script:

[out:csv("name:tk";false)]; area[name~"Aşgabat"]; way(area)[highway][name]; out;

I imported the generated list into Excel and applied the filter for removing duplicates (easy to do in a spreadsheet), and discovered that this is an excellent tool for identifying misspellings of street names and other anomalies! I've spent a little time cleaning up the street names in Ashgabat, as a result, and am now prepared to start work on a gazetteer.

Taxi Companies and the Ashgabat 2017 App Are Using the OSM Map of Ashgabat

Posted by apm-wa on 27 August 2017 in English (English)

It turns out two taxi companies here, TM! Taksi and Tiz Taxi, are using the OSM database for both the client apps used to summon taxicabs, and for the driver's apps. The Tiz Taxi website notes in its FAQ for potential drivers, "Приложение водителя интегрировано с Яндекс.Навигатор или Waze. Используйте для определения маршрута. Мы также добавили поддержку навигатора MAPS.ME" (The driver's app is integrated with Yandex Navigator or Waze. Use for determining the route. We also added support for the MAPS.ME navigator) The Yandex and Waze maps of Ashgabat are out of date, but the MAPS.ME app uses OSM and is thus pretty much current. Interesting that OSM is finding more uses here.

The app for the 2017 Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games also uses the OSM map of Ashgabat as its base map. I downloaded the app just now. The games start on September 17.

Yesterday we cruised the northeast corner of Gypjak to collect a few more street names. Am hoping to have most of the suburbs mapped to the degree possible before the Asian Games start.

When the Hunting is Poor, Change Your Hunting Ground

Posted by apm-wa on 15 August 2017 in English (English)

Weekend before last I spent several hours roaming Abadan and Gypjak, far western suburbs of Ashgabat, collecting street names, points of interest, and adding streets that didn't appear on the map (unplugging the SD card from the Garmin navigator forces it to collect tracks where you actually are, rather than trying to align them to the nearest street). Those towns, while not yet complete, are in much better shape in OSM now.

The research continued on names of monuments in traffic circles within the Ashgabat city limits. I count 22 monuments inside traffic circles and believe we now have names for all of them. If you are curious, enter "binasy, Ashgabat" or "monument, Ashgabat" in the OSM search box (without the quotation marks) and see what pops up.

Construction in Ashgabat is winding down as the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games approach. They start September 17 and the city is preparing.

Location: Yasmansalyk, Bagtyýarlyk etraby, Ashgabat, Ahal Region, Turkmenistan

Monuments and Streets

Posted by apm-wa on 5 August 2017 in English (English)

Came across a brochure today naming some previously names-not-known monuments in Ashgabat, so did a little ground truth to verify them and entered their names (no, the brochure does not bear a copyright!) Also added a kindergarten, updated some streets, added one (1) street name discovered while exploring a neighborhood to discern changed traffic patterns. There are still street names to be discovered but these days instead of collecting a dozen or two dozen on a trip, I'm lucky to find one new street name.