Futureland: Astana

Penelope’s next stop is Astana, the capital of  Kazakhstan. The latter  sounds a bit Eurovision but both statements are real facts.  For those who don’t have heard anything about  Steppes  or   Gulag(sh) Archipelagos or even better about Borat, I’m sure, they have heard about the  medalists of London Olympics – eleven Kazakh Olympic medalists! Not so bad for a new independent country.

At the moment, I’m still in the “honeymoon phase” of my secondment to this new place and  I’m behaving like a formidable tourist without any shame. I am  strolling around the city, taking snapshots of almost everything and absorbing as much  information  as I can.  So, I will transfer to you whatever I managed to yield from this place during these few days that I’m here.

Kazakhstan became independent in 1991 and the new President choose Astana(means Capital)as the new capital – in the north of Kazakhstan by replacing Almaty which is in the south. This means that the temperature drops dramatically below zero. It’s official  that is the world’s coldest capital  -52o C followed by Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. Somehow, it looks like I’m having  a kind of turkish bath.  From one extreme to another, from Abu Dhabi +52oC, to Astana -52oC .

Kazakhstan has 131 ethnicities Kazakhs, Russians, Uzbeks, Tatars, Germans, Ukrainian… And around 14.000 Greeks (Pontic Greeks) who deported from Russia by Stalin. The higher percentage of population are Muslims and secondly Russian Orthodox . The country has long tradition in tolerance and secularism.

It is obvious that Kazakhstan has invested billions for the city’s plan and has invited some of the world’s leading architects to showcase their work on the Left Bank of the Ishim River, which separates the administrative “new city from the older, mostly Soviet built district on the Right Bank. The mastermind of the city’s plan  is Kisho Kurokawa a Japanese architect. He chose the concepts of symbiosis, metabolism and abstract symbolism to be the basis for Astana’s development.

The architecture  of the city centre is visually arresting.  It has really a science fiction look. I don’t think that is everyone’s taste but love or hate it, I think, Astana is here to stay. Its population increases rapidly from  300.00 to 700.000 almost in a decade. And in the future, perhaps, it will play the role of the gate from Asia to Europe. Kazakhstan, in general, has a serious wealth of resources from oil , gas, all sorts of minerals, uranium, wheat…

The presidential Palace in the centre of the city: An invisible straight line connects  a series  of  buildings (science fiction look) & gardens starting from the Pyramid, in the Right bank of the river Ishim, the Presidential Palace, the Bayterek and finish with “a super tent” Khan Shatyr.

Bayterek : The symbol of Astana :The monument is meant to embody a folktale about a mythical tree of life and a magic bird of happiness:


Khan Shatyr, or the “king’s tent : A mall and entertainment centre designed by Norman Foster : The last structure in the straight line which leads to Presidential Palace


Ishim river : separates the city on the Left and Right bank

The pyramid  : the Palace of Peace and Harmony by Norman Foster: in the Right bank opposite exactly, in the other side is the Presidential Palace.

The main force behind of all these constructions, the builders doing their warm up before starting their hard task  ;)