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Wednesday 26th July
Kazakhstan Information - Page 1
Geography
The Republic of Kazakhstan is in Central Asia. It is the ninth largest country in the world with a total area of 2,717,300 sq km. Kazakhstan is bordered by Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and the Caspian Sea.

The capital city is Astana. Almaty was the capital until the end of 1998.

Kazakhstan's terrain consists of large areas of plains with some mountainous regions. The main river is the Irtysh.

Kazakhstan is arid and semi-arid with hot summers and cold winters.

Environment
The environment of Kazakhstan includes steppe, forest, desert and mountainous regions. The Karakum Desert and Kyzylkum Desert extend into Kazakhstan from neighbouring Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan respectively.

The Caspian Sea, to the west and south-west, and the Aral Sea is shared with Uzbekistan. Lake Balkhash, in central Kazakhstan, is one of the world's largest lakes. The three Kolsai Lakes are mountain lakes in the northern Tien Shan.

Kazakhstan's nature reserves include the Aksu-Zhabagly Nature Reserve, Almaty Reserve, Barsa-Kelmes Reserve, Bayan-Aul Natural Park, Markakol Natural Reserve, Ustyurt Reserve and the West-Altai Reserve.

Saryarka - Steppe and Lakes of Northern Kazakhstan, added to the World Heritage List in 2008, consists of the Naurzum State Nature Reserve and the Korgalzhyn State Nature Reserve.

Birds found in the wetlands include the pink flamingo, the Siberian white crane, the Dalmatian pelican and Pallas's fish eagle. Other wildlife found in the protected areas are the saker falcon, golden eagle, saiga antelope, brown bear, lynx, wild boar and snow leopard.

Architecture
The ancient cities of Taraz and Yasy (Turkestan) and the towns of the Otrar Oasis were important commercial centres on the Silk Road, the trade route between Europe and China.

Towns in Otrar have flourished since the first century AD. A four-year UNESCO project aimed to conserve the traditional mudbrick architecture including the fourteenth century Otrar Mosque and Palace.

The Hodja Ahmed Yasavi Mausoleum in Turkestan and the mausoleums of Taraz, including the Aulie-Ata of Karakhan and Aisha-Bibi, are among the examples of Kazakhstan's best historical architecture.

Modern architecture can be seen in the new capital city of Astana. A complex in the city's main square serves as the government's headquarters. The "pyramid for peace", a symbol of peace and cultural centre, is a 253 ft high steel and stone structure designed by Britain's Norman Foster.

Population
The population of Kazakhstan was estimated at 15,399,440 in 2009.

Languages
Kazakh is the state language. Russian is an official language.

Religion
Islam and Russian Orthodox are the main religions.

Food
Food in Kazakhstan includes a variety of breads, soups and stews. Meat dumplings are popular and smoked horsemeat sausage is often served with noodles.

Meat is traditionally the most important component of Kazakhstani cuisine and meat dishes are prepared using lamb, mutton or beef with savory seasonings and vegetables. Meat is boiled, stewed and grilled and cooked over a grill on skewers (shashlik). Fish is also prepared in a variety of ways.

Pilav or "plov" is both savoury (rice with meat, carrots or turnips) and sweet (rice with dried apricots, raisins and apples).

Yoghurt and milk products are part of the Kazakh diet. Sweet dishes include honey pastries and halva.

Tea is a popular drink. Black tea may be taken with milk and sugar or with lemon. Green tea is preferred without milk or sugar. Coffee is also available. Fermented milk is a traditional drink and vodka is a favourite alcoholic drink.

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