Kazakhstan

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Kazakhstan is the largest landlocked country and, as the world's ninth biggest country by area, is the largest of the former states of the former Soviet Union apart from Russia itself. It has borders with Russia, China, and the Central Asian countries of Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, which it dwarfs. Its lack of significant historical sites and endless, featureless steppe repel as many visitors as are captivated by the emptiness and mystery of this goliath state. Kazakhstan is the richest country in the region due to its large oil and natural gas reserves and is also the largest in Central Asia. (less...) (more...)

Population: 17,736,896 people
Area: 2,724,900 km2
Highest point: 6,995 m
Coastline: 0 km
Life expectancy: 69.94 years
GDP per capita: $14,100
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  • Metropolis over 100 hotels
  • Big city 50-100 hotels
  • Medium city 20-50 hotels
  • Small city 5-20 hotels
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Points of Interest

  • Beach Beach
  • Business object Business object
  • Casino Casino
  • Civic property Civic property
  • Education Education
  • Entertainment Entertainment
  • Golf course Golf course
  • Green space Green space
  • Harbor Harbor
  • Historic site Historic site
  • Interesting place Interesting place
  • Medical Medical
  • Monument Monument
  • Museum Museum
  • Shopping Shopping
  • Skiing Skiing
  • Sports facility Sports facility
  • Theater Theater
  • Winery Winery

About Kazakhstan

Background

Native Kazakhs, a mix of Turkic and Mongol nomadic tribes who migrated into the region in the 13th century, were united as a single nation in the middle of 16th century. The area was conquered by Russia in the 18th century, and Kazakhstan became a Soviet Republic in 1936.

During the launching of the 1950s and 1960s agricultural "Virgin Lands" program, Soviet citizens were encouraged to help cultivate Kazakhstan's northern pastures. This influx of immigrants (mostly Russians, but also some other deported nationalities, including the Volga Germans) skewed the ethnic mixture and enabled non-Kazakhs to outnumber natives. Independence has caused many of these newcomers to emigrate.

Modern Kazakhstan is a neo-patrimonial state characterized by considerable nepotism and dominance over political and economic affairs by President Nursultan Nazarbayev. However, it is not a severely authoritarian government as compared to bordering Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and China and opposition is not usually sacked or imprisoned. Since independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, the Kazakh government has allowed foreign investment to flow into the capital to develop. The development of significant oil and gas reserves, particularly in the north and west, have subsequently brought a large amount of wealth to the country, though the money falls into the hands of just a few people. Nevertheless, Kazakhstan is now labelled a middle-income country, and is already classified with a high human development index. Corruption in Kazakhstan is ubiquitous compared to China, but it is not as widespread compared to other countries in the region.

Current issues include: Developing a cohesive national identity; expanding the development of the country's vast energy resources and exporting them to world markets (an oil pipeline to China has been built; the gas pipeline is under construction); achieving a sustainable economic growth outside the oil, gas, and mining sectors, and strengthening relations with surrounding states and other foreign powers.

Activities

  • Sauna complexes. Because of its cold and windy weather, visiting saunas with friends is very popular in Kazakhstan. Saunas (Russian banyas or Finnish steam rooms) are an excellent place to discuss business issues or just socialize with friends. Having parties (birthdays, New Year, etc.) in saunas is a normal practice. In fact many modern sauna complexes in Almaty and Astana are usually fully equipped with karaoke, billiards, swimming pools, relax rooms, massage rooms, etc. Some saunas are a cover for sex services.

Food

Meat, potatoes, rice and pasta. And lots of it. If you're vegetarian be wary, because if it doesn't have meat in it, it was almost certainly cooked on meat stock.

Some recommended dishes:

  • Beshbarmak - a horse meat and pasta dish with potato and onion. The national traditional dish of Kazakhstan most often served for special occasions. Can also be made with beef or lamb. Most restaurants that serve it will present a portion enough for two or three people
  • Kazy - handmade horse meat sausage, could be cooked and served with Beshbarmak, but not at the restaurants, unless you ask to do so when preorder menu. If you did not, it would be served as cold meat appetizer with other types of cold meat appetizers(Zhaya, Basturma, Shyzhyk). And separate price would be charged. Kazakh dish.
  • Laghman - a thick noodle dish with meat, carrot and onion, usually served as a soup.Some other veggies could be added too.
  • Manty - large steamed dumplings full of meat and onions. Sometimes made with onions or pumpkin. Traditional Uighur dish.
  • Plov - wonderful dish of fried rice, meat, carrots, and sometimes other bits such as raisins or tomatoes. Traditional Uzbek dish.
  • Shashlyk or Shish Kebab - skewered, roasted chunks of marinated meat, served with some sort of flatbread (usually lavash) and onions. Various marinates can be used, and different ways to cook it, open fire or other.
  • Baursaky - bread best served piping hot. A little like an unsweetened doughnut. Kazakh.
  • Pelmeni - boiled dumplings made from different kinds of meat or potato. Russian.

If you're a vegetarian, you're probably thinking there's nothing for you in Kazakhstan. And you're right - so long as you eat out. But if you're cooking your own food, you'll be more than satisfied. Kazakhstan has some excellent products available at little markets everywhere. You will be amazed with the taste and availability of fresh organic veggies at low price! For a treat in Almaty, try Govinda's, a delicious vegetarian Hare Krishna restaurant. Malls have food courts with some vegetarian options too. Even some small Kazakh eateries will prepare vegetarian meals for you if you make it very clear to them (e.g. "byez myasa" (without meat), "ya vegeterianetz" (I [male] am a vegetarian), "ya vegetarianka" (I [female] am a vegetarian) in Russian). At some places (e.g. smak) you can even find vegetarian manty made with pumpkin.

The legacy of Korean resettlement in Kazakhstan means that Korean dishes, particularly salads, are very common. At the country's many bazaars (independent food and goods markets), look for the Korean ladies selling these. They will wrap you up any number of delicious, often spicy and garlicky salads to take away in plastic bags. If you are vegetarian, this may be the only decent thing you get to eat while you're in the country.

On the other hand, in Kazakhstan you can find any dishes you want, but Chinese and Japanese dishes are very expensive. The most delicious is caviar, which is very cheap, you can buy 1 kilo of caviar for less than USD300 in Almaty Zyeloniy Bazaar, but you can't export or take it with you home, you will be stopped at airport and pay high fines.

Eating out is relatively cheap; you basically order the meat dish and then add rice, potatoes, etc. Each element is priced individually, so you can order for instance only meat or only rice. Prices are relatively cheap, count KZT500 for chicken, KZT1,000 for beef, and up to KZT1,500 for horse, a local delicacy. Of course, the fancier the restaurant, the higher the price. If you don't speak Russian, things are relatively hard as the majority of restaurants don't have English menus (with the exception of some hyped places in Almaty).

While Kazakhs are not very religious, most do not eat pork. Be aware of this if you are dining out with Kazakhs or planning a dinner at home. Also many dishes that are made elsewhere with pork (such as dumplings or sausage) are made with beef or mutton here.

Drinks

You can find any sort of drink you want, some of the traditional beverages include:

  • Kumiss - fermented mare's milk, up to 6% alcohol content - imagine tart lemonade, mixed with semi-sour milk
  • Kumyran (Shubat)- fermented camel's milk
  • Kvas - described as similar to root beer it can be bought in a bottle in a store, or by the cup from people with giant yellowish tanks of it on the street

Cheap alcoholic drinks can be found at every little corner shop (called the astanovka). These places are open 24/7, just knock on their door if the shopkeeper is asleep. Kazakhstan's speciality is cognac, though stores still sell vodka cheaper than bottled water at times. However, some of these astanovka sometimes sell alcohol of dubious origin; for the sake of your stomach you may want to buy your beverage in a supermarket, although the price will definitely be higher.

Several brands of beer, of good quality and flavor, are made in Karaganda.

Juices, in cartons, are common and delicious, especially peach juice.

Shopping

The national currency is tenge (KZT, Cyrillic: тенге and sometimes symbolised as ₸ or T). In Aug 2013, exchange rates were:

  • €1 = KZT202
  • £1 = KZT237
  • US$1 = KZT151

Even for people who are not big shoppers, the beautifully crafted felt items will appeal. They are also easy to carry and inexpensive to post.

This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Kazakhstan on Wikivoyage.

Cities in Kazakhstan

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Almaty is the former capital of Kazakhstan, located in Almaty Province.

Interesting places:

  • Republic Square
  • Almaty Cathedral
  • Medeu Stadium
  • Big Almaty Lake
  • Almaty Opera House
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Astana , in the north of Kazakhstan, is the second largest city in the country. It took over the role of capital city from Almaty (the largest city) in December 1998. Now, it is undergoing a transformation costing billions of dollars, where top international architects assist in trying to make Astana a worthy ... (read more)

Interesting places:

  • Bayterek Tower
  • Korme Exhibition Complex
  • Kazhimukan Munaitpasov Stadium
  • Palace of Peace and Reconciliation
  • Presidential Palace
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Aktau is a city of approximately 200,000 citizens located on the banks of the Caspian Sea (Kazakh: Каспий теңізі, Russian: Каспийское море) in Kazakhstan.

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Ust-Kamenogorsk is a city in northeastern Kazakhstan, and is the capital of Eastern Kazakhstan Province, with a population of about 350,000 people.

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Shymkent is a city in the Kazakh Desert, and is the third largest city in Kazakhstan.

Interesting places:

  • Shymkent Circus
  • Waterpark Dolphin
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Atyrau is at the northern end of the Caspian sea in Kazakhstan.

Interesting places:

  • Oblakimata Park
  • Manjali Mosque
  • Atyrau National History Museum
  • Atyrau University
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Uralsk is a city in West Kazakhstan.

Interesting places:

  • Uralsk Mall
  • Uralsk New Mosque
  • Uralsk Stadium
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Aktobe is a city in Kazakhstan's Central Highlands.

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Interesting places:

  • Lake Borovoe Park
  • Children\'s Park
  • Avenue of Remembrance
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Points of Interest in Kazakhstan

Baikonur is famous cosmodrome site for the launch of the first manned orbital flight by Yuri Gagarin. The modern town of Baikonur was built near the existing village of Tyuratam.

As the cosmodrome area (6000 km2.) is rented by Russia, no Kazakh visa is needed if you fly in directly from Moscow.

  • Köl-Say Lakes

Bayterek Tower - Astana

Republic Square - Almaty

Charyn Canyon - Chundzha

Oblakimata Park - Atyrau

Mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yasavi - Turkestan

Shymkent Circus - Shymkent

Tamgaly - Kopa

Lake Borovoe Park - Borovoe

Uralsk Mall - Oral

Bayanual National Park - Bayanaul

Almaty Cathedral - Almaty

Medeu Stadium - Almaty

Big Almaty Lake - Almaty

Almaty Opera House - Almaty

Korme Exhibition Complex - Astana

Presidential Palace - Almaty

28 Panfilov Heroes Memorial Park - Almaty

Almaty Central Stadium - Almaty

Kazhimukan Munaitpasov Stadium - Astana

Palace of Peace and Reconciliation - Astana

panoramio Photos are copyrighted by their owners
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