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In response to the caller who is interested in visiting Kazakstan, my closest friend has been living in the former capital for the past year and a half and I thought I'd pass on some of the information she has given me about the place.

1. It is not really worth travelling all the way there to visit. The Kazak people were nomadic when the Russians moved in and all the cities are modern and soviet style. Tajikistan and Uzbekistan are far more interesting, with working cities that are thousands of years old and artisans practicing ancient techniques of rug making, ceramics and metal works.

2. Almaty is an increasingly dangerous city in terms of robbery. You must be aware as you move around the city.

3. There is a very large expatriate community from around the world. The economy there is growing. She says it is a good place to live if you are going to be in central Asia as there is complete access to western goods. It should not be a final destination for travelers.

4. In the interior of the country there were environmental abuses and catastrophes which render certain areas toxic to people.

5. The western portion of the country is very violent and women should take extreme caution or not travel there alone. She has two former female Peace Corps volunteers who were each assaulted by men--one violently.

6. Finally, the climate is similar to Minnesota and North Dakota. Outside of the cities, it is steppe land and remote. Kazak people are closely related to Mongolians They, too, lived in Yurts and were nomadic prior to becoming part of the Soviet Union. On the Eastern border, there are some of the highest mountains in the world. It can snow on the higher passes throughout the summer.

When we got together recently, we met in Istanbul. If I do get out to visit her while she is there, she has trips to Uzbekistan and Tajikstan that she would insist we go on, which are quite lovely and exceptionally rich in history. She said the capital of Uzbekistan was like Istanbul in its ancient architecture except that there was more of it and much of it is used today. I did find some web sites which gave good information when I was researching a possible visit some time back. Silk Road was the key phrase I typed in.

I hope this helps. Thanks for the show. It's very fun.



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