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Almaty (Алматы)

Welcome to what is often called the birthplace of the apple!

The name "Almaty" derives from the Kazakh word for "apple" (алма), and thus is often translated as a city "rich with apples". The older Soviet-era Russian version of its name, Alma-Ata literally means "Grandfather of apples". In the surrounding region, there is a great genetic diversity among the wild apples and there are numerous scientific institutes from around the world located in Almaty to study the science of the apple.

Some Kazakhs claim that Almaty could be the site of the garden of Eden.

(Map from

Formerly named Alma-Ata (Алма-Ата), Almaty is the largest city in Kazakhstan and was the historic capital of the Republic until the government moved the capital to the new city of Astana in recent years.

The population of the city is over 1.3 million people with the approximate population breakdown of Kazaks 51%, Russians 37%, and other nationalities 12%. Kazakhstan is majority Muslim but very moderate and there is a large Orthodox Christian population in the country.

The city is served by the Almaty International Airport, (ALA).

(foto: Aziz Akhmedov)

(foto: Fanil Lis)

(foto: Fanil Lis)

Many residents own cars as well and motorcycles are very popular with younger generations.

(foto: Ilya Varlamov)

Although it has lost the status of capital, Almaty remains the largest financial, economic and cultural center of Central Asia. It accommodates numerous business centers, theaters, museums, art galleries, exhibition halls and countless modern entertainment complexes (ultra modern movie theaters, casinos, nightclubs, parks, restaurants, and cafes.

There is a Metro in Almaty and a new line is currently under construction.

(City of Almaty Metro map.)

Residents point to their modern transportation system with its abundant buses, trams and trolleys.  We'll take a quick ride on a bus:

First we have to pay the fare and this machine takes small yellow bus tokens which are sold at most bus stations and sometimes by cashiers on the bus. The price is 80 Tenge (KZT), about .58 cents in USD.

After paying the fare we'll take a seat.

Next we'll take a tram ride. Trams and trolleybuses look very much alike so an easy way to tell the difference is that trams ride on steel rails while trolleybuses have wheels and tires just like ordinary buses but like trams their electric engines are powered by overhead electric wires.

We'll pay the fare of 80 Tenge which is consistent across all forms of public transport. If you don't have a token and there is no cashier on the tram, simply purchase a token from the driver.

Then find a seat.

(All fotos above unless noted are by Ilya Varlamov)

An aerial tramway line connects downtown Almaty with a popular recreation area the top of Kök Töbe (Kazakh: Көктөбе, which means 'Green Hill'), a mountain just to the southeast. The city television tower, Alma-Ata Tower, is located on the hill, as well as a variety of amusement-park type attractions and touristy restaurants.

With only a few days in Almaty, you can see a lot. Start with the city's most famous attraction, the tram to Ak-Tyube hill and TV tower, leaving right from downtown. Grab a meal or beer and enjoy the view at one of the many restaurants and bars on top. Next, try Medeo, an Olympic-level skating rink, and the highest in the world, a 15 min. drive from the city. From there, get even higher at nearby Chimbulak ski resort, take the lift and enjoy an aerial view of the city (grab something warm though, as it takes you quite high (3,200m) and it gets very cold up there).

If you have spare day, head to the mountains to Big Almaty Lake and observatory, or Talgar gorge (trout farm, ostrich farm and nomadic burial sites where the famous Golden Man was discovered) If not in the mood for cold mountains, go in the opposite direction to Kapchagai Lake and the spectacular Ili River, with ancient Buddhist petroglyphs and a huge fort built for the movie "Nomad".

Here is an excellent link to Almaty hotels.

There are housing shortages in the major cities like Almaty and Astana and so there are lotteries each month designed to award housing as construction projects are completed.

In 2008, social rights activist Vladimir Tretyakov (not to be confused with the honourable Vladimir Tretyakov, Rector of Ural State University) was in Almaty for the 2008 grants of public housing to applicants.

There were far more applicants than apartments available and the crowd gathered in the wee hours of the morning waiting for the Public Housing offices to be opened. The crowd continued to grow larger as morning came.

Some young men began to climb on the hot water pipes which run into the building, attempting to enter through windows.

Others tried to climb tree limbs and then jump into the office windows.

Of course the police came and stablized the situation.

A Kazakh Girl (maybe not typical appearance)

Building the Almaty of the future:

Tall communications (TV-radio) tower/spire to right of photo:

(Almaty centre, foto: Moscow Times)

(foto: Dmitry Dvoretsky)

(foto: Roman Dimitrov)


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