Welcome to Astana, one of the most beautiful cities in the world!
Who said that “West is West, East is East, and they will never come together”? Young Kazakhstan capital has debunked this myth. The modern design and Asian color of urban architecture have turned Astana to city with a unique look and style. With its beautiful and high buildings our capital competes with Tokyo, New York and Dubai.
In 1999 Astana was awarded the UNESCO "City of Peace" prize. More than 10 years went by, and young Kazakhstan capital continues to grow and transform, to become more attractive to people of Kazakhstan and foreign guests. You want to travel to Astana, but do not know where to start from? Meet some of the most remarkable places of the capital - Astana – Bayterek monument, Duman recreational centre, Palace of Peace and Harmony (popularly referred to as the “pyramid”), Akorda - the residence of the President of Kazakhstan, Independence Palace, Kazakh Eli monument, the promenade at the right bank of the Ishim river, and other government and public buildings and monuments.
Among architectural complexes of young Kazakhstan capital Eurasian National University named after L. Gumilyov, the outstanding Eurasian scientist and turcologist, occupies a prominent place. History of the University starts in May 1996, when a National University of "Eurasian" type was created in accordance with the decree of the President of Kazakhstan, N. Nazarbayev. Today L. Gumilyov ENU offers to its students the opportunity to actively participate in cultural, social and political life of Astana and Kazakhstan.
Open Astana with the Eurasian National University!
Astana through my eyes
New Zealand is my country. I am a very proud New Zealander, but Astana, Kazakhstan is now my home. On 22 September 2005 I flew over Kazakhstan. Below me, out of the steppe emerged the city of Astana. I was eager to see the new capital of Kazakhstan and all it had to offer. During this visit Astana was to be my home for just three months.
I knew very little about Astana, so I did not have many pre-conceptions. This is a good way to begin an adventure.
Arriving during autumn meant that I had missed the summer season which everyone said was beautiful and warm. However, a northern winter, complete with snow (lots of snow) was what I was looking forward to. Astana in winter far exceeded my expectations. Footpaths covered in blankets of white, people bundled up in huge winter coats were new sights for me. Seeing the Ecil River frozen over in December and walking on its glassy surface was a first for me, an experience I will never forget. I walked gingerly across the river holding the arm of my friend, fearing that at any moment the ice would crack and I would fall into the freezing water!
Astana in 2005 had more BMW’s and Mercedes that I have ever seen in one place, however, these were not the cars of the rich or the “up and coming”. No, these were every day people’s cars. That they used to get from A to B.
In 2005 the most significant building in Astana was by far the Biterek, with its golden globe at the top. Perhaps this is still the most famous tourist spot in Astana for foreigners and Kazakh people alike. Sapling trees and well tended gardens surrounded this significant monument to peace. New buildings were in the process of being built all around Biterek, but not quite finished.
With bumbling Russian I tried to communicate in 2005, people clearly knew I was foreign, but that didn’t seem to matter. They accepted me just the same. For that I am thankful. People were not too busy to help me when I needed help. People’s acceptance of me in Astana, in spite of my awful Russian, led to friendships being made which have lasted 7 years.
One thing I loved about Astana (and still love now) is the fact that is an international city. One way that I think this is reflected is in the variety of ethnic restaurants and cafes available here. I have never eaten such delicious food as I have here in Astana – lagman, plov, bayersak, bishbarmak and shashleek, just to name a few. From Uyghur to Uzbek, Chinese to Indian, Russian, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Turkish or even American. It is all here.
On 22nd December 2005 I left Astana to return home to New Zealand. Although I was leaving, I took a little piece of Astana, and therefore of Kazakhstan with me in my heart. I enjoyed the people, the city, and the life in Astana, there was a part of me that wanted to return some day.
Fast forward to 25th August 2011, six years later. I flew over Kazakhstan. Below me, out of the steppe emerged the city of Astana. This time, it was a much bigger city. As I was being driven from the airport to my new home on the outskirts of the city, I saw some familiar landmarks, but I also saw just how much Astana had grown in size, but also in wealth. I saw new, shiny, futuristic buildings. This time the older BMWs and Mercedes of 2005 had been replaced with sleek Japanese models. The new buildings and new vehicles I was seeing around me clearly spoke of a wealthier Astana. A city which is fast becoming like other modern capitals of the world.
After being here a few weeks, I revisited the Biterek. Fancy cafes, international clothing stores and shopping malls are in those buildings now that were not quite finished in 2005. The trees which were merely saplings in 2005 are now strong and tall, providing shade and beauty. Biterek has the best view of the entire city, in my opinion. When standing looking out over the city I wonder to myself “just how far Astana is going to expand”.
This time around, I caught the end of summer. I was able to see what everyone meant back in 2005 about the long, warm, beautiful summer days. These days were mine for a few weeks, and then autumn took over. But I was glad for a taste of the warm Astana weather.
I plan to stay in Kazakhstan now for a couple of years at least. Kazakh is now my language of choice and I’m taking courses at Eurasian University. It is such a privilege to be learning this beautiful language. There is no lack of encouragement when I try out my Kazakh language skills on the people I meet at the bazaar, at the bus stop or just on the street. People in Astana are very open, and perhaps even more so now that I am learning Kazakh.
I have had the privilege of seeing how far Astana has come in a relatively short period of time. It has established itself as a new, international capital which is looking to the future and I am looking forward to my future living here in Astana. I’m looking forward to growing with this city, experiencing new things and participating in this amazing life that I am blessed with. I’m looking forward to showing my family and friends my new home when they come to visit and all that our city has to offer.