Muhammad Asif Noor
As I stepped off the plane and onto the land of Kazakhstan, I was immediately captivated by the allure of this magnificent country.
It was not an ordinary visit; I was privileged to attend the Sixth Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) Summit in Astana in October 2022.
This grand event, chaired by none other than Kazakhstan’s President, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, aimed to discuss the crucial matters pertaining to CICA’s objectives.
Moreover, it was a momentous occasion as the CICA also celebrated its 30th Anniversary of foundation in 2022, boasting a membership of 27 countries, all working towards the promotion of peace and prosperity in Asia.
My first stop on this remarkable journey was the bustling city of Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan. Renowned for its modern architecture and stunning landscapes, Astana stood as a testament to the nation’s progress and vision.
The city’s transformation from a modest provincial capital to a vibrant metropolis was truly remarkable.
After participating in the events of the CICA summit and making my intense contribution towards the panel that I was part of, we later embarked on the city tours and saw the city life.
As I explored Astana’s streets, I couldn’t help but admire the impressive array of universities that dotted the cityscape.
These institutions, known for their academic excellence and cutting-edge research, showcased Kazakhstan’s commitment to education and innovation.
The vibrant campus life and the diverse student community fostered an environment of intellectual growth and cultural exchange.
One university that left a lasting impression on me was the esteemed Nazarbayev University. Nestled amidst a picturesque setting, the university boasted state-of-the-art facilities and a dynamic academic environment.
It was a melting pot of cultures, with students from all over the world pursuing their passions in various fields. The intellectual discussions and the spirit of collaboration were truly inspiring.
Apart from the universities, Astana itself was a sight to behold. The city’s architectural wonders were a testament to Kazakhstan’s ambition and grandeur.
The iconic Bayterek Tower, with its golden orb symbolizing a bright future, offered a breathtaking view of the city’s skyline.
The Palace of Peace and Reconciliation, an architectural marvel designed by the renowned British architect Norman Foster, symbolized Kazakhstan’s commitment to harmony and unity among nations.
Exploring Astana further, I discovered the enchanting Nur-Astana Mosque, a place of tranquility and spiritual reflection. Its elegant design and intricate artwork made it a haven of peace amidst the city’s vibrant energy.
I also strolled through the Astana Opera, a cultural gem that showcased Kazakhstan’s rich artistic heritage. The performances, ranging from classical ballet to opera, left me spellbound and deepened my appreciation for the country’s cultural richness.
Beyond the city limits, Kazakhstan’s natural beauty awaited. Although due to the busy conference meetings, I could not embark on the journey to the majestic Altai Mountains in the country’s eastern region.
However, I have been told that the rugged peaks, vast alpine meadows, and crystal-clear lakes presented a breathtaking panorama of nature’s splendor. It was a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and adventure seekers, offering opportunities for hiking, horseback riding, and even skiing during the winter months.
Throughout my visit, I was embraced by the warm hospitality and kindness of the Kazakh people. Their rich traditions and vibrant culture added depth and charm to my experience.
Amidst this breathtaking scenery, I also witnessed the unwavering spirit and industrious nature of the Kazakh people. Traditionally nomadic, they have a deep-rooted connection to the land and a strong work ethic that has helped them overcome countless challenges.
This resilience is evident in the bustling markets and bazaars that dot the country, where traders and craftsmen proudly display their goods.
I had the privilege of observing skilled artisans crafting intricate patterns on traditional Kazakh carpets, a testament to their craftsmanship and dedication to preserving their cultural heritage.
I had the privilege of sampling traditional Kazakh cuisine and savoring dishes like beshbarmak and kazy. The flavors, infused with a blend of Central Asian and Russian influences, tantalized my taste buds and left me craving for more.
The cultural and historical linkages in Kazakhstan are as diverse as they are fascinating. The country’s position at the crossroads of East and West has shaped its rich tapestry of influences.
In the city of Turkestan, there are Mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yassawi, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The intricate architectural details and the spiritual significance of this place transported takes us back to the time, connecting us to the ancient Silk Road and the trade routes that once thrived in the region.
Another jewel of Kazakhstan’s cultural heritage is the city of Almaty, with its charming blend of Soviet-era buildings and modern skyscrapers.
Here, you can immerse yourself in the vibrant art scene, visiting galleries and museums showcasing the works of Kazakh contemporary and traditional artists. The Almaty Central Mosque, with its grandeur and intricate design, served as a reminder of the country’s strong Islamic heritage.
As I delved deeper into Kazakhstan’s history, I discovered the fascinating legacy of the Kazakh nomads, their customs, and their folklore. The stories of legendary figures such as Ablai Khan and Kazakh folk heroes like Koblandy Batyr resonated with me, illustrating the indomitable spirit of the Kazakh people.
Kazakhstan’s cultural and historical splendor, coupled with its breathtaking landscapes and hardworking people, create a tapestry of experiences that leave a lasting impression.
It is a land where the past and present intertwine, where traditions are cherished, and where the boundless beauty of nature unfolds at every turn. Kazakhstan has a story to tell, and I am grateful for the opportunity to have been a part of it, even if only for a short while.
As my journey in Kazakhstan came to a close, I couldn’t help but feel a profound connection to this beautiful country. Its captivating blend of history, culture, and natural wonders left an indelible mark on my heart.
The CICA Summit served as a platform for dialogue and collaboration among nations, but it also offered me the chance to witness the beauty and hospitality of Kazakhstan firsthand.
Leaving this enchanting land behind, I carried with me memories of a vibrant city, breathtaking landscapes, and the warmth of the Kazakh people. Kazakhstan had won my heart, and I vowed to return one day, eager to explore more of its hidden treasures and be part of its journey toward a brighter future.
*The writer is Editor In Chief The Diplomatic Insight