In the 2006 comedy film Borat, Kazakhstan is lampooned as a country you would want to escape to.
However, according to the country’s foreign minister, visa applications from tourists wishing to visit the nation have increased “ten-fold” since the film was released.
Yerzhan Kazykhanov, commenting on the news on Monday [23rd April 2012], said: “I am grateful to ‘Borat’ for helping attract tourists to Kazakhstan.”
Here are ten facts that visitors to this fascinating country might like to know before setting off…
10. It has many borders
Kazakhstan is the world’s largest landlocked country. Bordered by Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan it has no sea coastline. But you can still find a lot of water in the country…
9. … And many rivers and lakes
There are a staggering 85,000 rivers and 48,000 lakes in the country – no wonder it’s such a popular spot for fishers to journey to.
8. The up-and-coming capital: Astana
[Photograph by Peretz Partensky]
Capital city Astana is known for its warm summers and cold winters. And when I say cold winters I really do mean cold winters. Mongolia is the only country in the world with a colder capital.
7. The stylish former capital
[A Soviet monument in Almaty. Photograph by Dieter Zirnig]
Astana is one of the world’s youngest capital cities; it only became the capital in 1997. Residents of the former capital, the decidedly more stylish Almaty, weren’t happy about having the title taken away from them.
6. Nomadic people
[Photograph by Cea]
Kazakhstan was the last Soviet republic to declare independence; it did so on December 16th 1991. Many of the country’s citizens still lead a semi-nomadic existence, following their herds into the pastures each summer and setting up camp with their yurts. But the nation is not resistant to modernisation and thanks to its oil reserves, is easily the richest of the ex-Soviet ‘stan’ nations.
5. Tien Shan’s famous climber
[Photograph by Yodod]
Kazakh mountaineer Kazbek Valiev has climbed many of his country’s peaks and is the only Kazakh to have scaled Everest. Nicknamed the Snow Leopard, in 1998 Kazbek rescued a lost climber at the greatest height any helicopter has ever flown to retrieve a man from a mountain. The mountain in question was Kazakhstan’s Tien Shan mountains and the rescued climber was a Japanese friend of Kazbek.
4. Horseback games
[Photo by Ssgt Jeremy T.Lock]
The Kazakh Steppe is the world’s largest dry steppe region and covers a third of the country. Horseback is a favoured method of traversing the steppe’s grasslands and so horses naturally have contributed much to Kazakh culture and folklore. The traditional horseback game of Kyz Kuu, an exotic hybrid of horse racing and kiss chase, is still performed by costumed riders of the 21st century.
[Photo by Keith Park]
Wherever there is horse racing there is also gambling and Kazakhstan is no exception. Until 2007, when the exasperated Kazakh government launched a crackdown, the country had as many casinos as the USA – despite having a population just five per cent as large.
2. Big country, sparse population
[Photograph by A. Lau]
On the subject of population – Kazhakhstan’s is under 16 million; roughly the same size as Beijing’s. In terms of surface area the country is the ninth largest in the world and covers an area the size of Western Europe. The average population density is six people per square kilometer.
[Photograph by Sam Javanrouh]
And finally… the film Borat was filmed in Romania not Kazakhstan so don’t believe everything you see in the film!
And here’s a bonus fact: you can currently get flights from London Heathrow to Almaty in Kazakhstan on Monday, Thursdays and Saturdays.
Relax in style the night before you fly out to this fantastic country by booking a hotel near Heathrow Athrough travel service company BookFHR.