Despite the debate around the film "Borat" in which a Kazak journalist goes to the United States for a report, travel to Kazakhstan remains rare. Whereas it is from here that the first man, the Russian Yuri Gargarine, went to space. This former soviet republic, independent since 1991, offers to curious tourists a lansdcape full of steppes stretching out over 1,240 miles. Formerly populated by nomadic tribes, Kazakhstan today has a real cultural identity. A country in the making?
+ Discover this unknown republic, which has been isolated within the Soviet block.
+ This immense country enjoys varied landscapes, mainly uncountable steppes eastward and the Tien Shan and Altai mountains to the west-south-west.
- Infrastructure similar to western designs is rare. It should be recalled that the country has known 70 years of communism and is still marked by its bureaucratic style.
- It is not possible to travel unaccompanied in the country if you are not adventurous.
Go hiking in the Almaty mountain heights. Go ice-skating in Medeo, in the centre of a splendid mountain cirque. Forget yourself in the Almaty parks, especially that of Panfilov, where young couples come to celebrate their marriage surrounded by their families and friends. Close to Almaty, get further to the big cosmopolitan bazaar of Barakholka with its hundreds of containers filled with Chinese-imported products and products from the region. In Atyrau, walk along the Volga riverside, a romantic and family stroll much loved by the nationals.
Men put on long and large white shirts in summer. They are assorted with straight waistcoats that touch the hips and large pairs of trousers. They protect themselves from the sun with a "tioubeteika" or pointed light-coloured felt caps. In winter, men put on a fur-trimmed coat and vest, fur felt cap or chapka made of fox fur and long boots. The elderly sometimes put on a fur-lined, very long and largely double-breasted "chapane". Women's traditional clothing is a large gown with a bright-coloured velvet waistcoat and an ankle-tight pair of trousers. They also put on many jewels (necklaces, earrings and bracelets). The elder women cover their heads with a white fabric hood and their feet with soft boots.
In Kazakhstan, most dishes are common to all of central Asia. Taste the plov, mutton mixed with rice and assorted with vegetables (onions, carrot), dry raisins and spices (cumin, coriander...). Enjoy shashliks, these small mutton, beef, chicken or chicken liver kebabs, often served with raw onion; mantys, sort of large vapour-cooked raviolis; laghman, spaghetti broth mixed with mutton, vegetables and spices. Also taste the meat and vegetable soup called chorba and the samsas, meat or vegetable balls similar to the Indian samosas. Also enjoy the large plain flat round breads sold almost everywhere good with soups or shashliks. Have tea, green or black, anytime of the day. Revive your senses with a glass of kumiss - mare milk, chubat - she-camel milk or airan - sharpish ewe milk. Shops and markets open from 9:00 AM to 6:00-7:00 PM.
As in many part of Central Asia, enjoy the spices and herbs with their enticing fragrances and colours found on bazaar stalls. Let yourself seduced by the different bright-coloured silk often sold per metre. Return with gorgeous silver jewels, sometimes assorted with precious stones like rubies and emeralds, but beware of imitations. Be seduced by jewels assorted with semi-precious stones like lapis-lazulis, or simply in chiselled silver.