Astana the bright capital of Kazakhstan


A couple of decades ago  Astana was not much more important than a nomad’s oasis.  Today,  it is the capital of Kazakhstan the well oiled Central Asian republic on the northern steppes from whence emerged the golden horde of Genghis and Kubalai Khan.  The city is situated on a flat plain where the natural colour is dusty brown.  Today, after years of heavy investment by the government, it has the reputation as Dubai of the Steppe.  Flash new buildings, many in unexpected shapes and colours, are sprouting up like so many spindly birch tress.  The architects are clearly commited to changing the landscape and colours of the desert.  Indeed, the only way I’ve been able to capture this most unlikely of metropolises is to pull the saturation meter up high.     The above is one of the city’s 5 major mosques that lies right across the road from a sprawling shopping mall.


The same mosque from another angle. The government provides incentives includjng higher salaries and free apartments to people to move to the city. The town is full of young people zooming around on the wide avenues in their SUVs, rushing God Knows Where.


Astana is not completely free of KFC or Starbucks but most eateries and the most popular are those that sell a mixture of Russian and Central Asian specialities like this one.


The elaborate, ornate, staid and usually empty restaurant at the hotel I’ve chosen to stay in, is typical of former Soviet Union restaurants. No such thing as intimate or comfortable dining!


The National Mosque is the shining center piece of the official heart of the city. The National Concert Hall and huge Palace of Independence are nearby as well. 


The early morning sun reflects off the glistening blue glass of the National Concert Center.  It is early may and temperature is already 36 C.


One of Astana’s new residents, probably a migrant from Almaty, walks by one of countless apartment blocks that are going up daily across the sprawling city.


In addition to new public buildings, highways and shopping malls the local authorities seem to be trying not to forget greenery.  Birch saplings hide a mosque in downtown Astana.


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