Upon my arrival to Kazahstan airport, completely dehydrated, sleepy, jetlagged and with the need to go to toilet, I was forced to stand for long two hours in a queue with two men walking around us with the machine guns – completely indulent to help.
There were little children around us, crying and elders unable to stand in line for so long.
My bag was completely damaged, open several times and clearly without my supervision checked and nosed-over.
I took a cab and the taxi driver started to ask me personal questions ending up with political talks and discussions. I closed my eyes in the cab for two mins only and woke up with the car parked beside the highway realizing the taxi driver is masturbating at the first seat watching me in the rearview mirror.
Nevertheless, here is what I captured after spending 3 days in Almaty, formerly known as Alma-Ata, the largest city in Kazahstan. It served as capital of the Kazakh state under the influence of the then Soviet Union. You wouldn’t believe me, but the city is called the Big Apple as old name ‘Alma-Ata’ means ‘father of apples’ in Kazakh, has claimed the honour of being birthplace of the apples.
The city is surrounded with Tian Shian mountain which in Kazakh means the Mountain of Heaven. It is a large system of mountain ranges located in Central Asia. The nature is beautiful and completely untouched but the city is quite polluted. There is also a famous Sunkar International Ski Jumping Complex.
What I was surprised with is the diversit of people there. Mainly muslim – orthodox religions with people of different origins or mixed ones, i.e caucasian, mongolian races with lots of indigenous groups and tribes participating the society.
As mentioned before, the most popuar religions are islam and christian orthodox. Hence, this beautiful buildings: first one is Zenkov’s Orthodox Cathedral also known as the Cathedral of Ascension. It is claimed to be the second biggest wooden building in the world. The second one is Central Mosque. Kazakhstan is a dominantly Muslim country and mosques are scattered around.
The streets of Almaty are wide and not much to offer in terms of bars, shops, architecture or monuments. But the most impressive part for me was The Golden Warrior: A Kazakh icon of Independence. The monument is a 27 meters tall pillar and on top is a winged snow leopard known in Kazakh folklore as barys. The story behind “Golden Warrior” is very interesting: the man is Scythian warrior found in burial mound, some 70 kilometers from Almaty in 1969. In this burial mound, a skeleton was found with all ceremonial and elite clothes and weapons and its believed to have been an 18 year old Scythian warrior prince dating back to the 3rd century BCE. The Scythians were a nomadic tribal people that inhabited the todays Kazakhstan and described in Herodotus’ The Histories, later they disappeared because of rise of Turks.
The next impressive person worth to mention is Philosopher Al Farabi and his statue. Born in Damascus, Syria in 10 century, a renowned philosopher and jurist who wrote in the fields of political philosophy, metaphysics, ethics and logic. He was also a scientist, cosmologist, mathematician and music scholar who gave the basics of education and judicary basics to the Kazakh state. His name holds Al-Farabi Kazakh National University, also called KazNU.
As mentioned, streets are not quite interesting and entertaining, especially not the Zholdasbekov street – the most famous pedestrian zone in Almaty.Whatever that means… 🙂
… but I found some traditional houses reflecting the late 19 century architecture.
But then I turned to Zelyong Bazaar (Green Market) and got inspired by some tastes, like nan, kazakh bread. There were piles of the big round breads. All of them had a raised edge and some kind of decoration on the central dough, though there are many variations on the theme.
As Kazakhs are nomadic people, their main meal afer the nan is a horse milk and meat and the dishes made of it. On the photo: chocolate made of horse milk. Lovely! 🙂