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Top things to do in Astana, the city of Expo 2017

Nella capitale del Kazakistan tra giugno e settembre si svolge Expo 2017. Cosa vedere ad Astana, una capitale moderna dal carattere sia orientale sia occidentale.

After Expo Milano 2015, the capital of Kazakhstan is hosting Expo Astana 2017. But few people know the history and places of interest of this city. Let’s discover what Astana has to offer as a modern capital, from its identity based on Eastern and Western cultures to its futuristic architecture.

Brief history of Astana

Astana is a young city built for the will of Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev who wanted to move the country’s capital from Almaty in 1997. The decision was taken due to the geopolitical position of the city – it is located in the middle of Kazakhstan and the Eurasian continent – as well as due to its infrastructures that facilitate transports and communications. The new capital was also chosen for the abundance of space and lands to allow its development. In 1998 the city was named Astana, which means “capital” in Kazakh.

Astana capitale del Kazakistan
Baiterek Tower, the symbol of Astana, the capital city of Kazakhstan

Architecture

The architectural concept underlying the city’s development is a Eurasian vision, resulting in a place that unites the Eastern and Western world in a harmonic way. This ambitious goal is achieved thanks to the excellence of the contributions. The author behind the Astana Master Plan is renowned Japanese architect Kisho Kurokawa, who also designed the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, Kuala Lumpur International airport, and the National Museum of Ethnology in Osaka.

Among other important contributions is British architect Norman Foster, who designed and built the Palace of Peace and Reconciliation and the Khan Shatyr Entertainment Centre.

Today, Astana is an ever-changing city that raises the interest and curiosity of a growing number of tourists.

Il palazzo presidenziale di notte illuminato. Una delle cose da vedere ad Astana, Kazakhstan.
The presidential palace in Astana, Kazakhstan

What to visit in Astana

Bayterek Tower

The Bayterek Tower, the tree of life in the middle the city and Eurasia, is the emblem of the capital. Everything in this monument is symbolic: the golden sun on top (at 97 metres of height) and the interior architecture representing the three fundamental universal principles. Bayterek means “poplar” in Kazakh and its structure made of metal, glass and cement is unique and magnificent: it is 105 metres tall, weighs 1,000 tonnes, and is sustained by 500 poles. The glass sphere on top changes colour with sunlight and is suspended at a record height.

Palace of Peace and Reconciliation

The Palace of Peace and Reconciliation is a pyramid built by Norman Foster in 2006. The name was chosen because the palace hosts religious leaders from all over the world for the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, held every three year. The pyramid is 62 metre tall and sits on a 15 metre high earth covered block, for a total surface of 25,000 square metres. Visiting it is a unique experience, with its concert hall, its apex accessible with a lift and an indoor winter garden.

The Hazret Sultan and Nur-Astana mosques

When in Astana, there are two mosques you can’t miss: the Hazret Sultan mosque and the Nur-Astana mosque. The former is more majestic, the latter is smaller and has a golden cupola that becomes surprisingly suggestive when hit by the sun. To visit them you need to take your shoes off and women also need to wear a blue hooded gown.

Astana is also home to a synagogue that, like all other monuments in the city, reflects the modern, multicultural and multi-faith side of Kazakhstan. Here, the representatives of all ethnic groups and religions live and work together and the city has become home to a series of public forums dedicated to interethnic and inter-faith cooperation.

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