Top 5 festivals that are worth visiting in Kazakhstan
Great impressions, meeting new people, surges of adrenaline while watching traditionally styled nomadic wrestling, or maybe complete peacefulness while, for example, practicing yoga or taking part in some embroidery master classes – you can and will experience all these in one trip, or separately, at the various amazing festivals in Kazakhstan, that we are going to tell you all about.
Feel like a nomad!
“Koshpendiler alemi” in June – the World of Nomads – is an international festival of the nomad culture. The festival takes place in Astana. Official website: www.won.kz
In 2019 this festival took place for its fourth appearance and was attended by those who found the nomad spirit close to them. At Koshpendiler Alemi it was possible to feel the spirit that existed several centuries ago in Eurasia. Moreover, by bringing to life the history and traditions of this ancient civilization, it felt like you were a nomad yourself.
The venue had been divided into seven sectors (“auls” i.e. “villages” in Kazakh) with an array of nomadic dwellers like brave warriors, sensational archers, brilliant horses, along with the finest craftsmen and ethnic musicians from around the world.
These interesting and fascinating events took place in each aul in the course of the two day festival. For instance, in “Ak Mergen” (White Archer, which means a neat archer) sector the best archers demonstrated their expertise with bows and arrows; in “Shabyt” (which means Inspiration) sector musicians and ethnic folk groups performed. In “Taiburyl” (named after the mythological swift horse of Kobylandy batyr) is where the competitions in “asau” the national game took place (steering horses); and nearby, in “Altyn Saka” (popular game with bone dices) sector, there were competitions of Kazakh wrestling, tug-of-war, dice games (a dice made out of young bovine’s ankle bone), a tussle with the participation of a bull, another game where participants should try to lift a sheep, and many other traditional kazakh national games. Keruen sarai was the right place for Kazakh food lovers. In this field that was built for the steppe warriors, people could watch ancient battles recreated in the “Batyr” (a Kazakh warrior and a strong man) sector. There was also a craftsmen workshop with an exhibition of unique handmade art that was established in the “Sheber” (i.e. handyman) sector.
The festival had, undoubtedly, made huge impression among the local people as well as among the foreign guests. The event’s hosts declared that they are not intending to stop at this stage – that the festival will become an annual event and, in time, will start expanding its area of celebration into different regions of the country.
Under the sky of Almaty
“The Spirit of Tengri” at the beginning of June is a festival of modern ethnical music. The venue is Almaty. In 2018 the festival had passed for the sixth time. Official website: http://thespiritoftengri.com/
As the hosts themselves say about the festival, “The Spirit of Tengri is a multicultural project that is aimed at demonstrating to the world, the ethnic traditions in Kazakhstan.” Experienced musicians from over 25 countries around the world had come to The Spirit of Tengri to perform in the past several years. Among them there were “Speed Caravan” an African-Arabic musical band, “Q2A” an Israeli band, “Abbos” a musical Uzbek group, “BaBa Zula” a Turkish band, “Hanggai” a Chinese-Mongolian band. Then there was “Tilla Török Band & Holdviola” Magyari band, “Argymak” Bashkirian ethnic rockers, “The Shin” a Georgian trio, also “Nordic Namgar” Buryat the Mongolian-Finnish-Norwegian musical project, Radik Tyulyush a Master of throat singing with “Chalama” Tuvian band, and many others. And of course, there were ethnic bands from Kazakhstan, like “Tigrahaud”, “Aldaspan”, “Sharapat”, “Roksonaki”, “The Drums” musical project.
With open air performances, modern ethnic music, high-quality sound, accompanied with free entrance – gives all the right characteristics to “The Spirit of Tengri” to be a festival to compete with other large-scale music events in Kazakhstan. Certainly, today “The Spirit of Tengri” is a cultural brand not only for Kazakhstan, but for the whole continent of Asia.
Territory of Hospitality
“Toikazan” takes place in October in Almaty. This is a festival of national cuisine for the guests and the people of Kazakhstan. In 2018 Toikazan had its sixth annual celebration in Kazakhstan. The word “toikazan” means “festive cauldron” – and is a symbol of friendship. So it is not surprising that the cauldron brings relatives together at weddings, birthdays, or the arrival of the spring holiday. According to its hosts, the main idea of the festival is to strengthen friendship and fraternity, which binds all the people living in this multinational country by the virtue of promoting its rich national cuisine.
The dishes introduced at the festival, always manage to impress people with their great variety, and, how astonishing, meat is the main component of any traditional meal in Kazakhstan. So be prepared to try Beshbarmak, Kuyrdak, and Shashlyk. Apart from the food tasting, the guests of the festival may watch competitions between the best cooks of the country prepare their best renditions of Baursaks and Beshbarmak.
Nowadays, traditional Kazakh food consists not only of Kazakh dishes but also of other nations’. There are 130 nationalities that live in Kazakhstan. No one in Kazakhstan can imagine their lives without Russian borsch, Uzbek plov or Uigur lagman.
And do not be afraid of overeating! When your eyes full with content from the healthy portions of delicious food, you may find that there is something else to occupy them at the festival. For example, you can watch performances with Kazakhs in their national costumes of the earlier years or watch some captivating equestrian games; participate in the assembling of a yurt; watch craftsmen work and buy souvenirs for long lasting memories; in the evening you can enjoy music of Kazakhstani musicians.
“FourЭ” ethnic ecological festival is held in the middle of August where “Э” means four words – ecology (Экология), ethnicity (Этничность, этника), emotions (Эмоции), and evolution (Эволюция). These four principles are very important for spiritual development of any human. The decorating of tents and the whole territory with bright materials is specially designed to reflect four colours that are related to the festival’s concept: green stands for ecology, purple is for evolution, pink represents emotions, and orange signifies ethnicity. So in your journey you may choose a path that you won’t get lost. Go in the direction of what attracts you the most!
2018 was the ninth year for the “FourЭ” festival. The venue is in the Almaty region. Official website: https://4e.kz
The festival represents the world’s best traditions: music and dance, legends and fairy tales, and all in the national costumes. Masters of various spiritual directions, yoga masters, psychologists come together for the festival.
At the festival in the evenings, the musical masters please the guests with their music – musicians from Kazakhstan and neighbouring countries.
For Birds Lovers
“Alakol Wings” welcomes the month of May, and is the one and only festival in Kazakhstan that is intended for bird watchers. In 2018 Alakol Wings celebrated its sixth appearance, which is traditionally on the shores of Alakol Lake in the Almaty Province. You can find more details about the festival by following this link: www.veters.kz
By the way, Alakol Lake is famous for its healing capacities and, moreover, it is a key area for ornithologists. Professional ornithologists esteem this area as one of the most favourable routes in the world for bird migration. In this area we can observe the route of bird flow from Central and Eastern Europe as well as from the Central and Western Asia. From there the routes are flowing to the south – in the direction of the Central and Eastern Africa.
The festival takes place in May since spring is the time for the birds’ seasonal migration in Kazakhstan; the time when, experts estimate, more than five million birds fly in here!
The birds return to their nests from these warm regions in huge flocks, and some of them even have already raised chicks by that time, so this creates a wonderful environment for bird watching.
Here you can see pink flamingos and curly pelicans, white and grey herons, spoonbills, swans, grey-backs of various species. For the advanced bird watchers, undoubtedly, they would fancy observing a relict seagull (Larus relictus).
For the guests of the festival there are field tours on specially equipped transporters along the lake shore and through the mountain gorges of Jetisy Alatau (Dzungarian). The staff of the Alakol Nature Reserve are leading ornithologists and bird watchers from around the country, and they arrange informative lectures, presentations for visitors. The festival is interesting for both newcomers and advanced bird watchers. Especially when they can all participate in special bird tours. The main goal of the event is to develop and promote ornithological tourism in Kazakhstan, by exploring nature through bird watching.
There are a lot of festivals in Kazakhstan, some of them are large scale, while others are not as popular; some events attract thousands of tourists, and others may host only two hundred guests. For example, Nauryz, it is the Kazakhstan national holiday celebrated across the whole country between 22nd of March until 22nd of April. Arrival of the spring is widely celebrated in every city and in every village in accordance with Turkic traditions originating from the earlier centuries. On the main square of a populated area there are yurts with tasty food, guests trying national Kazakh food, visitors watching various national games, sport competitions, contests, and horseback riding. The rest of the public festivities are usually concluded by a concert with the participation of local musicians.
So it is up to YOU the traveller to see, feel, and experience what these festivals have to offer. There are only two things that truly unite all of these festivals, and they are hospitality and cordiality. So we invite you to celebrate and share these wonderful moments with us here in Kazakhstan!