While I love this blog, I now pretty much only write on my other two blogs: BirdingBlogs.com and 10,000 Birds - I would love to see you there!

Monday, 25 May 2009

Views of Astana, capital of Kazakhstan

Astana (Астана) has to be one of the strangest cities I have ever been in. It smells of new money and basically this entire super-modern city has been created in the last 10 years. Architecturally, the buildings are definitely visually appealing. Everything in Astana looks new and shiny. And big.

The mosque and Islamic center is spectacular. Sponsored by the Emir of Qatar (emir = something like commander or prince), the dome is 43m high, has 4 x 63m high minarets, and can accommodate 5,000 worshipers. It was built in 2005.

This looks like an enormous apartment block in downtown Astana. But maybe it is also an office block.

This is the site of a new "giant transparent tent". The structure will be covered with some form of transparent plastic that absorbs solar radiation, creating a warm, tropicl climate inside - year round, even when the steppes are bitterly cold outside. Astana is the second coldest capital city in the world with an average daily low of -21ºC (-6ºF) in January and February and it has gotten down to -52ºC (-62ºF)!

Anyhow, this new tent will cover an area of about "10 football stadiums" and "...will be a city with squares and cobbled streets, canals, shopping centres and golf courses. The idea is to recreate summer, so that when the outside temperature is -30C, the residents of the Kazakh capital can play outdoor tennis, take boat rides or sip coffee on the pavement cafes" according to the BBC news report.

Sounds like an incredibly ambitious project, but is likely to be a wonderful break from the cold for the locals in winter.

Lots of shiny new buildings everywhere...

Rush hour in Astana.

I found it really interesting that there is so much money being invested here, but literally two minutes drive out of Astana, and the roads are horrendous. We travelled great big wide open roads all over Kazakhstan, and besides in Astana itself, there was not a road where you could effectively use fourth gear. 60km/hr on a "good" road and you are asking for whiplash. I wonder if the local chiropracters offer frequent flyer miles...


SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

What an interesting post Dale. That is a beautiful mosque and I can see those are all new buildings.

A massive project that to be building the plastic covered area. I am sure it is going to cost a fortune but will be well worth it in the end. A wonderful idea.

I forgot an interesting bit of info on the leopards which I added onto the bottom of the post. :)

Ginnymo said...

They sure so have some awesome buildings there. Looks like you are enjoying your trip Dale!!

Sharon said...

Very interesting! There has to be some reason why they are pumping so much money into this economy...you'll have to find out for us & let us know. Beautiful city and wonderful idea to get out of the cold during winter. Thanks for taking us to a place that most of us will never have the chance to visit!

Dale Forbes said...

the money comes from natural resources (mainly petroleum, but also mining) and a president that wants to put the country on the map (although I dare say Borat did more to tell the world that the country exists than the fancy buildings are doing).

The money seems to be going in to pomp and glamour, while the rural folk are just as rural and basic as ever. (lovely as they are, they seem very very dour and serious. not sure if I ever saw a local smile - well, there was the local leader of the Sociable Lapwing project Maxim who was always full of smiles, but he was an exceptional character in many many ways).

Something else that stood out to me was that there are many high buildings despite the massive amount of open land just a couple of kilometers away - this is highly unusual for a city with lots of land available to it.

Thank you for all your comments!