Bayterek Tower: A Symbol of Prosperity for Kazakhstan

Bayterek Tower is a stunning monument and observation tower located in Nur-Sultan, formerly Astana, the capital city of Kazakhstan.

From the tower’s notable height to its color and shape, to the golden observatory, every aspect of the tower’s design is steeped in symbolism and celebration of the Kazakh culture.

Symbolism in Numbers

The architect, Akmurza Rustembekov, designed Bayterek Tower with the symbolism of numbers in mind. The tower was built to a height of 97 meters, to celebrate the year 1997, when Nur-Sultan, then Astana, became the capital city of Kazakhstan.

Prior to 1997, the capital of Kazakhstan was Almaty, about 1,300 km to the southwest. The government of Kazakhstan feared that Almaty was too susceptible to damaging earthquakes, and too close to the Chinese border for comfort, and relocated the capital North and East to Astana. In preparation for the new capital’s celebration, construction of the Bayterek Tower began in October 1996. The sparkling golden egg observation tower, spans 22 meters and overlooks the picturesque Kazakh capital from 86 meters above ground. Inside the observation tower sits a wooden globe at the center of a flower with 17 petals to symbolize the world’s religious movements.

Samruk and the Tree of Life

The symbolism that Rustembekov built into tower’s design derives from an old Kazakh legend about the great bird of happiness, Samruk, and the golden egg she laid among the branches of the Tree of Life, a poplar tree. The legend varies based on the region, but it is generally agreed that the egg symbolizes the sun, and is laid by Samruk in the Tree of Life. The sun is later swallowed by the dragon Aydahar, a representation of the light and dark cycles of summer and winter, day and night, good and evil.

Even the name of the tower, Bayterek, is the historic name of the Tree of Life, symbolizing strength and prosperity. As a celebration of the new Kazakh capital, the Bayterek Tower succeeds admirably by combining an uplifting sense of prosperity and bright hopes for the future with profound insight into depths of Kazakh folklore and history.

Sources:

“The Bayterek Tower”. Explore Astana. http://www.astana-kazakhstan.net/attractions-2/culture-and-entertainment/the-bayterek-tower/. Accessed 23 August 2019.

“Bayterek Tower”. Astana Hotels. http://www.astanahotels.ru/eng/astana/bayterek.htm%20Bayterek%20Monument. Accessed 23 August 2019.

“Why Did Kazakhstan Move Its Capital?” Infoplease. https://www.infoplease.com/askeds/why-did-kazakhstan-move-its-capital. Accessed 23 August 2019.

“Baiterek – A Symbol of Modern Astana”. Advantour. https://www.advantour.com/kazakhstan/astana/bayterek.htm. Accessed 23 August 2019.

What You Need to Know to Visit The Big Almaty Lake

It is a beautiful fall morning in the mountains.

The day is warming up nicely as your taxi deposits you at the mouth of the trail. Energized by the lingering effects of the traditional sweet coffee you had at breakfast, you start your hike. Rounding the bend, the vision in front of you takes your breath away: the intense turquoise blue of Big Almaty Lake.

How to Get There

Your story begins when you visit this picturesque alpine lake located just outside of the Kazakhstan city of Almaty in the Ili-Alatau National Park. Both nature enthusiasts and Instagrammers alike flock to the site to photograph the intense hues of the reservoir that serves as its namesake city’s water supply. To get there, have the hotel arrange a taxi or use the Yandex app to schedule your own.

Things to Know

Planning ahead will make your trip much more comfortable and drama free. Some things you will want to consider:

  • Wear comfortable clothing and shoes appropriate for hiking up and down mountain terrain
  • Bring your passport in case you are stopped at a security checkpoint
  • Pack snacks and water as there are no concessions in the park
  • No swimming is allowed
  • You may need an International Driving Permit if you choose to drive yourself

Since the fall of the Soviet Union, trails leading to the Kyrgyzstan border have been closed, but many others are open to adventurers. A short hike from the lake reveals a fantastic waterfall. Pack a picnic if you’d like to spend more time on the mountain.

Safety and Security

Travel in Kazakhstan is generally safe. However, like any city in the world, travelers can be targeted by thieves. Use common sense security measures such as keeping your valuables out of sight and refraining from walking alone after dark. 

Learn about Space at the Baikonur Cosmodrome

If you’re interested in space, visiting the Baikonur Cosmodrome deserves a spot on your travel bucket list.

Since NASA’s space shuttle program ended in 2011, American astronauts head to space from Baikonur, Kazakhstan. 

History of the Baikonur Cosmodrome

While the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan is now known among space enthusiasts as one of the most-used launch sites for sending astronauts, cosmonauts, and supplies to the International Space Station, it has a far more complicated past. During the Cold War era, Soviets used the location for testing a variety of missiles. At the height of the Space Race, Russian cosmonauts used the site in their attempts to land a man on the moon before the American astronauts. 

Since the end of the American space shuttle program in 2011, American astronauts have begun to use Baikonur as their primary launch point, as it is located closer to the equator than any other reasonable option. Although they are no longer able to launch shuttles out of nearby Cape Canaveral, Florida, NASA still communicates with American astronauts aboard Russian Soyuz rockets and the International Space Station from mission control in Houston, Texas.   

Visiting the Baikonur Cosmodrome

While all travelers with valid documents to enter Kazakhstan may visit the city of Baikonur, tourists can only visit the Cosmodrome as part of a guided tour. Many tours need to be booked several months in advance, and they can last for several days. Visitors will be able to see several museums filled with space artifacts, learn about the history of the Russian space program and its recent collaboration with NASA, tour other parts of Baikonur, and possibly even watch a live Soyuz launch.

Careers in Space

Although the American space shuttle program does not exist at this time, Americans may still pursue careers as astronauts with NASA. However, those chosen to travel to space will need to launch from Baikonur, Kazakhstan, for the foreseeable future.  

Students interested in working as astronauts, at mission control, or in other positions at NASA should take rigorous courses, attend space camps, and prioritize grades as early as possible. Very few prospective astronauts are accepted, virtually all of them go far above and beyond minimum requirements, and many have pilot or military experience. 

Visiting the Baikonur Cosmodrome introduces tourists to the latest in space travel, what lies beyond Earth, and what the future of space travel may hold.