Tasty Travels: Almaty, Kazakhstan

by Joshua Foust on 12/10/2007 · 4 comments

The Blue Mosque

The New York Times discovers what the rest of us have known for many years: Almaty is an alright place to visit.

Infused with newly flowing oil money, Kazakhstan’s largest city is flush with nightclubs and exotic restaurants. The city’s main boulevards are lined with English-language signs; boutiques sell everything from Armani to gem-encrusted Vertu cellphones, and cafes serve the latest in overpriced coffee concoctions.

Sacha Baron Cohen’s comic Borat character may have imprinted in the minds of many people a sense of ridiculousness about Kazakhstan, but there is little that is ridiculous about this sprawling business hub.

Oh my God, it just does not stop. But the note that Almaty is no longer a hardship post for diplomats and businessmen is an interesting one… especially considering the diplomats are migrating north to the Astana-themepark good ol’ Uncle Nazzy built himself.

A better grasp of some fun to have in Kazakhstan is offered by friend-of-Registan.net Michael Manning. In 2005, his Chinese visa ran out and he had to spend some time in Almaty while he got processed. His picture gallery is pretty amusing as well (the panorama from Kok Tübe is spectacular). The photo at the top of this post is of the Blue Mosque, which was rather picturesque when I saw it far too many years ago.

But really: Almaty is a beautiful town, and a lot of fun to play around in. Even though I only passed through it very briefly, digging through these pictures no small degree of nostalgia. For all its many charms (and yes, there are more than a few), Washington, DC just isn’t quite as pretty.

Update: Speaking of pretty, the new financial district in Almaty looks set to be absolutely gorgeous.

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This post was written by...

– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from Registan.net. His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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D December 11, 2007 at 2:55 pm

This year Almaty appeared on both NYT and WSJ lists. Weird.

Steve LeVine December 11, 2007 at 10:01 pm

Great town.


Narcogen December 12, 2007 at 4:36 am

Sure it’s a great town (looking at the rest of the neighborhood) but the NYT piece is pretty much bereft of content, and those images of the financial district are all concept drawings.

I’ll try to get some photos of the construction site this weekend and post them up.

Dolkun December 13, 2007 at 3:31 am

Narcogen’s exactly right. I have no doubt that the buildings will look like the pictures, but the green lawns, clean air and pleasant traffic-free boulevards are a bit out of place.

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