ASTANA/ALMATY, MAY 28 2017 (The Conway Bulletin) — Gripes about the economy dominated my week in Astana and Almaty. Not gripes from officials but gripes from ordinary Kazakhs who are feeling the pinch.
Still, Astana and Almaty felt upbeat.
Astana was busy putting the final touches on EXPO-2017, an event it has been building towards for several years. It’s with brash civic pride that people living in Astana tell you that the world is going to visit their city this summer. We shall see.
Not that I could have a look around EXPO-2017 when I was there. They weren’t ready yet for visitors, including journalists, despite advertising that the media centre and accreditation desks were open for business.
If Astana was full of brash pride about the multi-billion-dollar government-funded EXPO-2017, Almaty’s pride lies in its more sanguine nature. I arrived off the overnight train from Astana. After a few days of interviews in Astana I was ready to see friends and the Bulletin’s correspondent in Almaty.
And May is a perfect time to visit Kazakhstan’s former capital. It’s warm, but not too hot, and the trees and flowers are blooming. The warmer air has also lifted the smog, giving visitors’ glimpses of Almaty’s regal snow-capped mountains.
Almaty oozes a breezy, louche confidence whereas Astana seems to crave attention and praise.
Astana grabs the headlines and improves with every visit I make. Almaty, though, has always had it and always will. And it knows this too.
By James Kilner, Editor, The Conway Bulletin
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(News report from Issue No. 330, published on May 28 2017)