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Food & Drink : Kazakh dishes include kazi, chuzhuk, suret and besbarmak (made from horse meat or mutton). Shashlyk (skewered chunks of mutton barbecued over charcoal) and lepeshka (round unleavened bread) are often sold on street corners and make an appetising meal. Plov is made up of scraps of mutton, shredded yellow turnip and rice, and is a staple dish in all the Central Asian republics. Other mutton dishes such as laghman and beshbermak include long thick noodles garnished with a spicy meat sauce. Manty (boiled noodle sacks of meat and vegetables), samsa (samosas) and chiburekki (deep-fried dough cakes) are all popular as snacks. Almaty is renowned for its apples – indeed the city was named after them.

Kazakh tea or chai is very popular and there are national cafes called Chai-Khana (tea-rooms) where visitors may sip this Kazakh speciality. It is drunk very strong with cream. Beer, vodka, brandy and sparkling wine are available in many restaurants. The national speciality is kumis, fermented mare’s milk. Cafes where this can be ordered are called Kumis-Khana. Refusing it when offered may cause offence. In the steppe and desert regions where camels are bred, the camel’s milk, called shubat, is offered to guests.

Nightlife : There are a number of nightclubs and casinos in Almaty and several other cities. Many restaurants play music after 2000. Kazakhstan’s most reknowned concert halls and theatres are all located in Almaty.

Shopping : Located north of Panfilov Park, Almaty has a bazaar, where a diverse range of items can be bought. Shopping hours: Mon-Sat 0900-2000.

Special Events : The following are some events taking place in Kazakhstan in 2004 :
Feb 2 Eid-ul-Azha (Feast of the Sacrifice). Aug Voice of Asia Festival (international song contest with folk festivals attracting people from all over the south of the country, during which national music, songs, dance, sports, national costumes and dishes can be experienced), Almaty; Khan Tengri Mountain Festival (extreme sports climing competition), Khan Tengri. Nov 14-16 Eid al-Fitr (End of Ramadan).

Social Conventions : Kazakhs are very hospitable. When greeting a guest, the host gives him/her both hands as if showing that he/she is unarmed. When addressing a guest or elder, a Kazakh may address him/her with a shortened form of the guest’s or elder’s name and the suffix ‘ke’. For example, Abkhan may be called Abeke, Nursultan can be called Nureke. This should be regarded as indicating a high level of respect for the visitor. At a Kazakh home, the most honoured guest, usually the oldest, is traditionally offered a boiled sheep’s head on a beautiful dish as a further sign of respect. National customs forbid young people whose parents are still alive from cutting the sheep’s head. They must pass the dish to the other guests for cutting. Inside mosques, women observe their own ritual in a separate room, and must cover their heads and their arms (see the World of Islam appendix for more information). Formal dress is often required when visiting the theatre, or attending a dinner party. Shorts should not be worn except on the sports ground. Tipping: This is not customary at restaurants and cafes, but is increasingly common in international hotels. A service charge is included in hotel and restaurant bills. There is also a fixed charge in taxi and railway transport.

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Information provided by Kazakstan Tourism Board.

 

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