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If you've had a chance to visit Dubai, then Astana feels incredibly similar.

OR, If you felt that Kazakhstan was a backwater country as portrayed in Borat, then prepare to be blown away.

Where is Astana, Kazakhstan

The Train Ride

The journey begins from the Russian city of Omsk. Either you can take a 1 hour flight for about $250, or a 15 hour train ride, for $30-40. I decided to cheap-out, and take the train.

Train from Omsk to Astana

The train ride itself is peaceful, and the only major event was the passport check on the train itself. One at the Russian border, and one at the Kazakhstan border.

The Shiny, Fancy Expensive New City of Kazakhstan

Taking a taxi from the train station, through the city, you feel that everything is new. The roads are wide, the buildings have only recently been completed, and this is almost like an architectural playground of the newest designs.

Astana, Kazakhstan Architectural playground

Astana, Kazakhstan Architectural playground

Symbolic Astana Bayterek Tower

Astana, Kazakhstan Architectural playground

Construction in Astana

Construction in Astana

 

Less History, More Future

Honestly, there wasn't much cultural architecture or feel to the city. It's exactly like Dubai… new, spaced out, and with no important historical moments… other than more construction.

But, in a novel, futuristic way, Astana is beautiful, because it shows how a modern city is built, when it has almost unlimited funds, and upward economic momentum.

Posing in from of Bayterek Tower, Astana

Bayterek Tower, Astana

Looks like an Asian version of the Empire State Building

Modern dwellings in Astana

A view of the Royal Palace in Astana

A hotel and shopping mall (in the back) in central Astana

A look into the future of Astana

A look into the future of Astana

Futuristic buildings in Astana

A view of central Astana with Bayterek Tower

A main road in Astana

A view of central Astana with Bayterek Tower

 

Government & Futurism

Almaty was originally the capital of Kazakhstan. But supposedly, the president of Kazakhstan wanted to build a closer base to Russia for economic purposes.

The majority of the Kazakh income is derived from the extraction and export of oil. As oil continued to appreciate in value, more money flowed into the Kazakh coffers, and hence, more money is being spent, sometimes senselessly.

Kazakhstan Emblem

Fancy government building in Astana

Kazakhstan Central Music Hall

Presidential Palace in Astana

Futuristic Tsesnabank in Astana

Fancy park next to the presidential palace

Construction in Astana

Buildings, Mosques and a Pyramid in Astana

Royal Palace at night in Astana

The Palace of Peace and Reconciliation, Astana

Eli Kazakh Monument

Interesting Architecture in Astana

Interesting Architecture in Astana

Khan Shatyr Entertainment Center

Monuments and hotels in Astana

Monuments and hotels in Astana

Monuments and hotels in Astana

 

Religion in Kazakhstan

While exploring the city of Astana, you definitely won't miss the sight of their 4-pillar-style Mosques. At night time, the lighting is intense enough to really warrant curiosity.

Kazakhstan is a predominantly Muslim country. But a progressive one, compared to Iran, Afghanistan, Indonesia, or other Islamic nations.

Kazakhstan went through several very rough, very forced cultural changes in it's history.

From being a region of nomadic tribes, assimilation into an Islamic religion, to being invaded by the Mongol Horde, back to Islam, and eventually both the Russian empire, and Soviet communism abolishing religion altogether…

And finally back to a semi-authoritarian republic that allows religion.

Hazrat Sultan Mosque

Hazrat Sultan Mosque

Hazrat Sultan Mosque

Inside the Hazrat Sultan Mosque

Inside the Hazrat Sultan Mosque

Inside the Hazrat Sultan Mosque

The Night Lights in Astana

Because the city is so incredibly new, and historically artificial, the light show is definitely something to see.

Monument Kazakh Eli

Monument Kazakh Eli

Monument Kazakh Eli

National Museum of the Republic of Kazakhstan

Astana at Night

Astana at Night

 

Verdict for Astana, Kazakhstan

Cool place. If you intend to walk around, like I did, then get comfortable walking shoes, and try coming here on a warm day. Despite being in ‘central asia' Astana is closer to the freezing Siberian-Russian climate.

The landscape is novel, futuristic and rapidly being built, so within 2-3 years, there will be a lot of new high-tech looking buildings (granted the economy survives on a dwindling interest in fossil fuels).

The prices aren't high, but they aren't low either, and you can uber for a dollar or 2 to any point in the city. You can see everything of interest within 1-2 days for sure.

As stated before, it feels like Dubai, or any brand new, high-investment city.

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