Capital | Astana
Population | 15,522,373 (July 2011 est.)
Area | 2,717,300 SQ KM
Official Language | Kazakh, Russian
Holidays | Independence Day, 16 December (1991)
Currency | Tenge (KZT)
Time Zone | UTC +6
Best Time to Visit | April to June (spring) and September to November (autumn)
Connecting with the Culture | Market-hopping in Almaty, the mercantile city that gathers together Chinese, Uzbek, Russian and Turkish traders. Nature-spotting in Almatinsky Nature Reserve for the super-rare snow leopard and arkhar (big-horned wild sheep). Gazing at the view across Lake Burabay, also seen on the 10 tenge banknote. Making the pilgrimage to Kazakhstan’s greatest building, the mausoleum of Kozha Akhmed Yasaui. Trekking the mighty Altay mountains, border to both Russia and China.
Read | The Silk Road: A History by Irene Frank and David Brownstone, a richly illustrated and mapped history of the legendary caravan routes.
Listen | to pop-folk fusionists Urker’s Made in Kazakhstan, using the sting instruments the dombyra and kobyz.
Watch | Ali G’s mate Borat for cultural clashes when a supposed Kazakhstani visits the UK and US.
Eat | qazy, the smoked horsemeat sausage sometimes served sliced with cold noodles.
Drink | shubat, fermented camel’s milk.
In a Word | Asalam aleykum (‘Peace be with you’ in Kazakh)
Characteristics | Borat the travelling Kazakhstani TV celebrity; big furry hats; Silk Road traders haggling over a tenge; barren steppes spanning the horizon; Soviet-era service.
Surprises | Ever-changing visa and border rules; enjoying a truly great local yogurt.
NEWS ABOUT KAZAKHSTAN:
Hungary and Kazakhstan form economic alliance
(HN, 5/7/12) - Hungary's PM Viktor Orbán signed several agreements with his Kazakhstan counterpart Karim Massimov on a trip to Astana this weekend for the Hungary-Kazakhstan business forum where Orban discussed his country's economic crisis & stated: “We not only have a new government, but also changed our mentality & approach to general issues: this is the main source of our international vision. We started thinking this way 2 years ago. We did not lose our hopes & ambitions. This is why 50 Hungarian companies consider it a priority to send their representatives to this forum to improve & enhance relations with our Kazakhstan partners.” Kazakhstan is Hungary's primary trading partner in Central-Asia. (Read more at NEW EUROPE)
Diplomatic fail: Borat Kazakh Spoof Song Played for Real Athlete
(HN, 3/23/12) - Kazakhstan's shooting team demanded an apology after winning a competition in Kuwait Thursday. By mistake, the spoof national anthem from the comedy film "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan," featuring British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen praising Kazakhstan for its superior potassium exports & having the cleanest prostitutes in the region - was played at the medal ceremony. The team's coach told Kazakh media the organizers of the tournament had downloaded the parody from the Internet by mistake & had also got the Serbian national anthem wrong. Video shows athlete Maria Dmitrienko listening intently to the song, then smiling. The ceremony was later rerun with the correct song.