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ALMATY

  In 1854 small fort was founded by Russians and named Verniy, which later become Almaty. Nowadays it is the most cosmopolitan of all Central Asian cities, the commercial and cultural centre of Kazakhstan, Almaty was the capital until 1997 when the seat of political power was moved to Astana.

  Almaty is located in the foothills of the Northern Tien Shan Mountains whose snow-capped peaks tower up into the sky as if guarding the peace and labour of citizens and which provide a spectacular and very scenery backdrop. A modern low-rise city with a number of parks, green spaces and avenues, street cafes and restaurants, Almaty is a pleasant place to spend a couple of days if a little expensive. The surrounding mountains provide splendid opportunities for walking and exploring nature for climbers, trekkers and day walkers.

  Things to see in Almaty include Panfilov Park, named after the 28 Panfilov guards from Almaty an Tokmak, who died heroically defending Moscow against the Nazi invasion in 1941, Zenkov Cathedral, built entirely of wood in 1904 without the use of any nails and the only building survived in the earthquake of 1911. In fact the cathedral is one of the eight most unique wooden buildings in the world. At Soviet times the Bolsheviks turned it to the history museum then to cultural centre and only in 1990 present government restored the status of Russian Orthodox Church. The Museum of Kazakh Musical Instruments in a striking wooden building presents a number of national instruments, many of which belong to Kazakh poets, composers and singers. State History Museum houses the fascinating collection of exhibits belonging to Saka period that date back to about the 5th century BC. Almaty mosque-is said to be the largest in Central Asia and situated just a few blocks from Panfilov Park.

Aliases: Alma-Ata, Almati.

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