A Thousand Apples: Almaty, Kazakhstan Celebrates a Special Birthday in 2016

A Thousand Apples: Almaty, Kazakhstan Celebrates a Special Birthday in 2016

Happy birthday, Almaty! May you live 1,000 more years!

It’s been here in the foothills of the Zaili Alatau Mountains since at least 1016, when it was at the center of Silk Road commerce. Almaty, the cultural, educational and financial heavyweight of Kazakhstan is celebrating its 1,000th birthday in 2016.

No, it’s not the country’s capital anymore – not since 1997 when President Nursultan Nazarbaev signed a decree moving the capital up to Astana (“the Dubai of Kazakhstan”) on the northern steppe. But it’s still the largest, most diverse, most stimulating, exciting and wealthy city in the country.

Global CityAlmaty is considered a global city, on a par with Seattle, Washington and Belgrade, Serbia. The Globalization and World Cities Research Network (GaWC) has pronounced it a Beta city, which means that it links moderate economic regions into the world economy. Central Asia is still a “moderate economic region” in 2016, but who knows how it might flourish in the next thousand years?

The breathtaking view atop Kok-Tobe Hill, near Almaty, Kazakhstan. Photo credit: Liz Tollefson

Overlooking the global city of Almaty from Kok-Tobe Hill
Photo credit: Liz Tollefson

Apple CapitalAlmaty’s name means “the place with apples,” and the many varieties of wild apple in the vicinity give scientists reason to believe that this is where apples were first domesticated. One local wild apple in particular, Malus sieversii, has been proven through DNA analysis to be the main ancestor of the cultivated apple.

Almaty apple vendor<br>Photo: Ana Filonov

Almaty apple vendor
Photo: Ana Filonov

Happy 1000th Birthday, Almaty, Kazakhstan!Thousand-Apple LogoThe winner of a contest for the best graphic design for the 1000th anniversary logo incorporates a giant apple resting on blue diamond-shaped numbers reading “1,000.”

Golden Warrior (Princess)Just 31 miles east of Almaty, archaeologists uncovered what they called the Golden Man, or Golden Warrior, a skeleton from the 5th century BC dressed in a coat covered with golden ornaments. The Golden Warrior quickly became the country’s icon and its likeness stands in state atop a 91-foot pillar in Almaty’s Independence Square, as well as in front of the Kazakh Embassy in Washington D.C. The only problem is that there’s a good chance the bones in the burial kurgan were those of a young woman, transforming the Golden Warrior into the Golden Warrior Princess.

Almaty To-Dos
  • Enjoy the annual Spirit of Tengri Music Festival, a celebration of contemporary ethnic music from around the world, taking place on the 4th and 5th of June in 2016. Musical groups from Mongolia, Georgia, Turkey, Tuva, and, of course Kazakhstan will perform in front of the Republic Palace.
  • Visit the comprehensive Kasteyev State Museum of Arts. Applied arts such as Kazakh felt rugs, carved wood items and embroidery compliment fine art from Russia, Central Asia and Western Europe.
  • Observe traditional Kazakh falconry at a falcon farm outside of Almaty. Hunters on horseback wearing traditional costumes give an exclusive demonstration of how the beautiful birds are used for hunting in Kazakhstan.
  • Browse in the Almaty Museum of Musical Instruments, created in 1980. The museum exhibits a collection of traditional Kazakh instruments, including the dombra, a two-stringed, lute-like instrument ubiquitous in Central Asia. Recordings of the instruments are played as a guide demonstrates and explains each one.
  • Experience local Kazakh culture as you shop for fresh fruits and vegetables, including the delicious apples that Almaty is famous for. Meat, eggs, flowers, plants, spices, dried fruit, cheese and mare’s milk koumiss can all be purchased at the Green (Zelyony) Bazaar. Jewelry, clothing, toys, hardware and other household goods are also on sale here.
Kazakh falconry

Kazakh falconry demonstration
Photo: Douglas Grimes

Travel to Kazakhstan with MIR

MIR has 30 years of travel experience in Kazakhstan, and has an accredited office in Central Asia. MIR has a roster of contacts that can take you to places that you didn’t even know you wanted to go. Our full service, dedication, commitment to quality, and destination expertise has twice earned us a place on National Geographic Adventure’s list of “Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth.”

You can visit Almaty with MIR on a small group tour, or on an independent trip put together just the way you want it.

Want to know more about travel to Kazakhstan? Read our What to Know Before You Go: Kazakhstan guide – full of insider tips on travel there.

Top Photo: Flowers and architecture blossoming in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Credit: Jamshid Fayzullaev

PUBLISHED: June 2, 2016

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