Kazakhstan is bordered by the Russian Federation, the Caspian Sea, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and China. For centuries, Kazakhstan's vast plains were home only to nomads and they are still virtually empty. Most settlements are concentrated in the southeast and the east of the Republic. South Kazakhstan is a focus of Central Asian history and there are many famous monuments in the region. It is a scenically diverse region where the snow-capped peaks, lakes and glaciers of the Tian Shan range give way to steppe and desert. The desert is home to the Singing Barkhan - a sand dune 3.2km (2 miles) long, which, as it crumbles, produces a peculiar singing sound. Almaty was until very recently the former capital of Kazakhstan and it enjoys a beautiful setting between mountains and plains. It is a city of modern architecture, cool fountains, parks and spectacular mountain views. Kazakh dishes include kazi, chuzhuk, suret and besbarmak (made from horse meat or mutton). There is a number of nightclubs and casinos in the main cities.

2,717,300 sq km (1,049,150 sq miles).

Five times the size of France and half the size of the USA, Kazakhstan is the second largest state in the Commonwealth of Independent States, and is bordered by the Russian Federation to the north and west, the Caspian Sea, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan to the southwest, Kyrgyzstan to the south and China to the southeast. 90 per cent of the country is made up of steppe, the sand massives of the Kara Kum and the vast desert of Kizilkum, while in the southeast of the country the mountains of the Tian Shan and the Altai form a great natural frontier with tens of thousands of lakes and rivers. The Aral Sea and Lake Balkhash are the countryís largest expanses of water.

Astana (formerly called Akmola). Population : 313,000 (1999).

Republic. Head of State: President Nursultan A Nazarbayev since 1991. Head of Government: Prime Minister Daniyal Akhmetov since 2003.

The official language is Kazakh, a Turkic language closely related to Uzbek, Kyrgyz, Turkmen and Turkish. The Government has undertaken to replace the Russian Cyrillic alphabet with the Turkish version of the Roman alphabet. Meanwhile, the Cyrillic alphabet is in general use and most people in the cities can speak Russian, whereas country people tend to only speak Kazakh. English is usually spoken by those involved in tourism. Uygur and other regional languages and dialects are also spoken.

Mainly Sunni Muslim. There are Russian Orthodox and Jewish minorities. There are ten independent denominations of Christianity. The Kazakhs do not express their religious feelings fervently - Kazakhstan is an outlying district of the Muslim world and a meeting point of Russian, Chinese and Central Asian civilisations. Islam plays a minor role in policy and there are no significant Islamic political organizations in the country.

Kazakhstan is divided into three time zones :
Eastern/Main Zone : GMT + 6 (GMT + 7 from 28 March to 26 October).
Central Zone : GMT + 5 (GMT + 6 from 28 March to 26 October).
Western Zone : GMT + 4 (GMT + 5 from 28 March to 26 October).
Electricity : 220 volts AC, 50Hz. Round two-pin continental plugs are standard.

Population : 14,841,900 (2000)., Population Density : 5.5 per sq km.

Telephone : Country code: 7. Area code for Almaty: 3272. International calls can be made at a reduced rate from 2000-0800 local time. International calls should be made from a telephone office; these are usually attached to post offices.

Mobile telephone : Dual band 1800 and 900 networks in use. Coverage is good around the main cities. Network providers include K-MOBILE and Kazakhtelecom. There are roaming agreements with Vodafone, Orange, O2 and T-Mobile.

Telegram : Facilities available from any post office.

Internet : ISPs include Parasang (website : http://www.ricc.kz) and Astel (website : http://www.astel.kz). There are Internet cafes in most towns and cities.

Post : Full postal facilities are available at main post offices in the cities, which are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The main post office in Almaty is located on Ulitsa Kurmangazy. International postal communication is undertaken by the firms Blitz-Pochta, Press Limited and International Press (e-mail : mpress87@hotmail.com). Delivery within the republic takes 3 to 5 days. Post to Western Europe and the USA takes between 2 and 3 weeks. Mail addresses should be laid out in the following order: country, postcode, city, street, house number and lastly the personís name. Post office hours: Mon-Fri 0900-1800. Visitors can also use post offices located within major hotels.
Press : There are 70 newspapers and 50 magazines in Kazakh, Russian, German, Uygur and Korean published in the country. The most popular are Yegemen Kazakhstan, Kazakhstanskaya Pravda, Panorama, Ekspress K, Khalyk Kenesi and the international newspaper Asia.

Radio : BBC World Service (website : http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice) and Voice of America (website : http://www.voa.gov) can be received. From time to time the frequencies change and the most up-to-date can be found online.

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Information provided by Kazakstan Tourism Board.


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