The Won­der­ful Kalei­do­scope Of Kaza­khstan

This bridge be­tween China, Rus­sia, and the West re­veals many trea­sures. By Li­viani Cinthyana

Indonesia Tatler - - Life -

As­tana Af­ter ar­riv­ing in As­tana, which has been the new cap­i­tal for Kaza­khstan for 20 years, I was filled with ex­cite­ment and an ad­ven­tur­ous spirit for hav­ing ar­rived in a new place. Tight­en­ing my jacket around my body, I walked out­side to start the jour­ney to my ho­tel. Along the way, I was struck by how well-de­signed and clean the road was, as well as how mod­ern the city is. Never re­ally know­ing much about Kaza­khstan, I was­blown away by the sheer size and moder­nity that greeted me along the way. From far away, I could see Expo, the capsule-like struc­ture that housed the 2017 In­ter­na­tional Ex­po­si­tion. The words “I love As­tana” ro­tated along the move­ment of the capsule, as if to sym­bol­ise the na­tion’s pride for the newly minted cap­i­tal city.

As­tana was built ac­cord­ing to a well­struc­tured master plan by Ja­pa­nese ar­chi­tect Kisho Kurokawa, who seemed to have en­vi­sioned As­tana as this far-off mod­ern city that is re­flected in the imag­i­na­tion of every fu­tur­ist. Orig­i­nally a plain steppe, it seems im­pos­si­ble to imag­ine As­tana as a

green coun­try filled with lush veg­e­ta­tion, but even with the com­plex tech­nol­ogy thus im­ple­mented, they have man­aged to grow trees along the road, com­plet­ing this mod­ern city’s look.

As­tana Opera and The Na­tional Academy of Chore­og­ra­phy A tour around the city re­vealed many facets of As­tana that will sur­prise vis­i­tors. A visit to its Opera and Academy of Chore­og­ra­phy showed the artis­tic side of the city, with a cre­ative spirit that can be seen through the dé­cor. The grandeur of As­tana Opera ri­vals that of the Rus­sian opera theatres, with its own orches­tra, bal­let, and opera troupe, ready to en­ter­tain art and mu­sic lovers. The Na­tional Academy of Chore­og­ra­phy, mean­while, rep­re­sents the art of move­ment in Kaza­khstan, with grand halls and prac­tice rooms for bal­leri­nas and bal­leri­nos from all ages mov­ing along with the sway of clas­si­cal mu­sic.

Expo 2017 The Expo 2017 site is not only a dis­play of mod­ern and fan­tas­tic struc­tures in As­tana, it is also a build­ing that rep­re­sents fu­ture en­ergy. From lev­els one to nine, you will be able to learn about all forms of fu­ture en­ergy from wind to so­lar to gas. With so many exhibitions, you could never learn ev­ery­thing in one day, so pre­pare a cou­ple of days to re­ally im­merse your­self in the ed­u­ca­tional at­mos­phere.

Turkestan The next day boarded the plane to the Turkestan province, where I was stunned by the myr­iad cul­tures pre­sented there. I felt like I fi­nally got to un­der­stand the true spirit of Kaza­khstan with its unique yurts, cuisines, and per­form­ing arts. Af­ter a while, you get

this feel­ing that you will never want to leave Turkestan un­til you fully ex­pe­ri­ence the range of cul­tures it has to of­fer.

Kaza­khstan cui­sine With its na­tional cuisines of horse meat, camel’s milk, and horse’s milk, I put my taste buds to the test and found that all of them are spe­cial for a rea­son. Besh­bar­mak, a dish of boiled horse, is re­ally pop­u­lar, and I can sort of un­der­stand why. Tra­di­tion­ally, with their no­madic life­styles, Kaza­khs re­lied on horses for trans­porta­tion and food. That’s why they have var­i­ous horse dishes, such as kazy (horse meat sausage) and kumys (fer­mented mare’s milk) on top of other na­tional dishes like ke­babs and palau.

We also got the chance to visit the Golden Camel fac­tory, a camel’s milk plant that is a Kaza­khstan and Chi­nese joint venture, where we got to try var­i­ous forms of camel’s milk. An eye-open­ing ex­pe­ri­ence that made me aware of the many va­ri­eties of milk and the health ben­e­fits of camel’s milk.

We were so warmly wel­comed by the lo­cals in Turkestan that even when we vis­ited a cot­ton farm, they had pre­pared a feast again for us, with main dishes such as tandyr’s nan and camel’s milk to fill our tum­mies be­fore din­ner­time. City of Otrar Ev­ery­where we went, we were treated to beau­ti­ful mu­sic com­ing from the tra­di­tional dom­bra and the vibrating voices of their top per­form­ers, mak­ing our lunches and din­ners that much more memorable and en­ter­tain­ing. We also got the chance to roam the an­cient city of Otrar, as well en­joy a tour tour around the Mau­soleum of Arys­tan­bab that is built with burnt bricks and which houses a dou­ble cham­ber-ta­ble tomb and com­mem­o­ra­tive mosque com­bined with a big vaulted cor­ri­dor.

The city of Turkestan at­tracts thou­sands of pil­grims, and, ac­cord­ing to a re­gional tra­di­tion, three pil­grim­ages to Turk­istan are equiv­a­lent to one hajj to Mecca. To be in places that are im­por­tant parts of Mus­lim his­tory made me feel re­ally proud, es­pe­cially be­ing an In­done­sian with a rich Mus­lim his­tory.

We also got the chance to meet Mr Zhan­seit Tuime­bayev, who is the cur­rent gov­er­nor of Turkestan province. He in­vited us to his of­fice to talk about the de­vel­op­ment plans for Turkestan and his wish to see more tourists com­ing to ap­pre­ci­ate the beauty and his­tory of the area. Turkestan proved to be an ex­hil­a­rat­ing jour­ney through Kazakh cul­ture, from

past to present, leav­ing me with won­der­ful mem­o­ries and a trea­sure trove of knowl­edge and mean­ing­ful con­nec­tions with the lo­cals, who show­ered me with un­re­strained hospi­tal­ity.

Al­maty Our next stop af­ter Shymkent and Turkestan was Al­maty, a city that has a strong Euro­pean feel, but with its own dis­tinct Kaza­khstan unique­ness that is both charm­ing and re­fresh­ing. We got the chance to ride a ca­ble car to the top of Kok­tobe Hill, a charm­ing des­ti­na­tion where you get end­less wafts of fresh air and com­pletely un­re­stricted views of Al­maty, along with a steam­ing cup of hot cho­co­late at one of the many choices of cafés up in the hill.

Af­ter such re­lax­ing mo­ments and with tum­mies full of de­li­cious snacks, walk around the hill and you will find many adorable an­i­mals such as os­triches and deer, which you can feed with the cups of raw veg­gies that are sold by many ven­dors around the hill. You can also tap into your in­ner child and play with the swings and play­houses to free your mind from the daily grind of life.

The Mu­seum of Arts The Mu­seum of Arts named af­ter A. Kasteyev proved to be a worth­while visit, with so much of the his­tory of Kaza­khstan in every cor­ner. Hun­dreds of art­works are hung, leav­ing me in a state of awe at the amount of his­tory that Kaza­khstan has born wit­ness to.

As a coun­try that bor­ders coun­tries like China and Rus­sia, Kaza­khstan has main­tained good diplo­macy be­tween Rus­sia, China, and the West, with pos­i­tive ties with all ma­jor global and re­gional power. Vis­it­ing this his­tor­i­cally rich coun­try, with its no­madic past, should be on your travel bucket list as you will not only leave with a fresh at­ti­tude, but also with an open mind.

As­tana City

Op­po­site page, clock­wise from top: As­tana city sky­scrapers; As­tana city at night; Burabay Clock­wise from top: Al­maty City; Lake Kol­say; Al­maty province; Medeo Skat­ing Rink; Al­maty city

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