I reached Astana just in time for the tenth anniversary celebrations of this new capital of Kazakhstan, a city created by the mere fiat of Kazakhstan’s president/enlightened despot Nazarbayev. We attended some concerts in the old part of town, while even grander concerts were going on in the new governmental district in the south. An enormous amount of money must have been spent on celebrations so large for a city which still has few inhabitants, although people were bussed in from the surrounding countryside to swell the crowds.
The differences between Astana and Almaty are immense. Almaty is a city of festivities, with people staying in the parks late into the night and having their choice of many eateries along the streets. Astana, on the other hand, falls asleep early, and one’s only dining options are expensive restaurants. While thoroughly international, Almaty provides at least hints of traditional Kazakh culture, while Astana is culturally generic.
Just as in Almaty, there are a lot of Turks in Astana providing skilled labour for the massive development that Kazakhstan is undergoing. My host was Kutluhar, a telecommunications engineer. He and his Turkish colleagues taught me along about their homeland, its cuisine, and its music, and I was left with a great desire to visit Turkey.