A carnival spirit prevailed among citizens of Kazakhstan, as they observed and celebrated the 15th anniversary of the establishment of Astana as the country's national capital.
The Kazakh way of life, both traditional and modern, marked the event, which was held in different prominent locations of the city.
The celebrations, which will last for ten days this year (July 4 to July 13), were formally kicked off by Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev at the Opera House here on Friday.
Various facets of Kazakh life were showcased, including savouring popular traditional drinks like kymyz or mare's milk; Chal, or Shubat or fermented camel's milk; the famed Kazakh horse-riding skills, trapeze artists, concerts with singers swaying the significantly huge crowd of men, women and children with their popular songs, stand-up comedians, live eagles which were once used by nomads for hunting of prey and food across the Central Asian steppes, camels, horse rides for adults and kids, teaching people pottery etc.
Another enclosure was set up for the sale of Kazakh goods, also traditional and modern, including fashion jewellery, trinkets, yurts (models of traditional Kazakh tents), water flasks made of leather, carpets woven out of sheep or goat wool.
A parade of uniformed personnel was also held on the occasion. Security and police were out in fairly full strength in designated parts of the city where the celebrations were held. The places that attracted the most crowds were the Central Square and the area near the most popular mall - Khan Shatyr.
Earlier, President Nazarbayev congratulated the people of Kazakhstan for the 15th Astana Day celebrations.
He said the image of the capital is the image of the nation projected to the outside world.
Describing Astana as a millennial city, he said that when the decision was taken to make it the new capital of Kazakhstan, the challenges before the leadership, including himself were huge.
It was, therefore, he said, a matter of pride that experts and ordinary people had played a significant role in developing a modern capital city, and this had silenced doubters once and for all.
Astana, he said, is like a great lighthouse in the boundless steppes of Kazakhstan. It is a city that has helped to promote harmony between multi-ethnic communities and to chart out a common historical destiny.
Economically, President Nazarbayev said that Astana has become the locomotive of Kazakhstan's economy, given a major fillip to both industry and construction.
Ecologically too, Astana has developed along expected lines, and it was hoped that by 2020, approximately 100,000 hectares of land would be landscaped.
Culture also was and would continue to be given due importance, the president said.
A gala concert featuring popular western classical singers has already been held, and Saturday evening seems to promise more entertainment, including fireworks and an American concert featuring Nicole Scherzinger
All in all, it has been a heady experience, and definitely worth a first time watch. By Ashok Dixit