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Last Updated: Monday, 11 August, 2003, 18:04 GMT 19:04 UK
Turkmen leader inspires devotion to melon
Turkmen melon
Melons are revered in Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan has devoted a day of festivities to celebrate the country's muskmelon, a close relative of the watermelon.

The holiday was inspired by President Saparmurat Niyazov, who prefers to be known as Turkmenbashi, or leader of the Turkmens.

"Do celebrate Muskmelon Day well, as a real holiday. Make sure that all associations and enterprises take part in it," the Turkmen television showed the leader telling state officials.

The television report on Monday about the holiday waxed lyrical over the fruit.

"This godsend has a glorious history that goes back centuries," it said, adding that its advantages were the product of Turkmenistan's "blazing sun, mild weather, productive land and tasty water, as well as peasants' kindness".

Melon mania

The fruit, which the report said was praised as a "miracle" in the middle ages, has been honoured with a national holiday since 1994.

"Since we became independent, our great leader, who has a great love of his nation and country, has brought the name of the tasty melons to the level of a national holiday," the TV said.

The day's celebrations featured a large display of the fruit in all its varieties, as well as a series of dance and music events, in the country's capital, Ashgabat.

Summing up the festivities, Turkmen TV said: "It made the love towards one's dear homeland, the great leader and kind nation grow even stronger."

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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