It's not like we should be surprised by outrageous edicts in Turkmenistan. This is a country not long ago nicknamed "Weirdistan" for the capricious rule of its previous dictator, and while present dictator Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov has taken the crazy down a few notches, he's still way up there - like when he tried to create a 770-square-mile "Golden Age Lake" in the middle of a desert. A report has emerged from an opposition website that customs authorities have banned the importation of black cars, which, if true, doesn't appear to have been by fiat, but due to the actions of loyal apparatchiks trying to please their leader.

Last September, Berdimuhamedov swapped his black state limousine for a white one, then insisted that 160 important government and media officials do the same. He didn't decree that the public needed to do the same, but so far in January a couple of private Turkmen importers say that they can't get their black cars inspected or cleared, and the vehicle inspection service in the capital Ashgabat won't look at black cars.

One of the importers said a customs official told him, "You should buy white cars as white color brings luck." And by "luck," they mean, 'The President for Life likes white now. So there.' Cars aren't the only possessions game for whitewashing: the country has spent more than $10 billion turning Ashgabat into 'The City of White Marble,' covering old buildings and erecting new ones in the colorless stone; it is in the Guinness Book of World Records for having the greatest number of white marble buildings in the world, and it has this totally amazing telephone booth.


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