On behalf of the editorial board of Discovery Kazakhstan magazine, allow me to bid you welcome. You hold in your hands the first number of this publication, which is and will be devoted entirely to leisure tourism in our Republic.
People don't know much about Kazakhstan. The Borat film, which, incidentally, was not shot here and which was arguably intended to say more about the West than our country, is hardly an accurate picture. Some people may have read Paulo Coelho's 'Zahir', which is, to give it its due, at least thought-provoking. It is probably quite widely known that Kazakhstan's current economic boom owes much to its fossil-fuel resources; and many may have heard of some of Astana's more unusual buildings. But all these isolated snippets of information are a long way from a balanced overall picture; and amount, really, to very little.
One problem is that, being such a diverse country, Kazakhstan is hard to sum up in a few glib phrases: the overall picture takes time to build up. Its elements, however, even in isolation of the general picture, are fascinating. Consider first a few moments from its history: the old nomadic civilizations of the Saks and Turks, with their burial mounds and rock drawings; Genghis Khan's descendants, the rulers of the first Kazakh state; the Silk Road. Or some of its most prominent sons: Khodja Ahmed Yasavi, the sufi teacher, whose legacy includes an architectural masterpiece in the form of the khanaka at Turkestan, a second Mecca; the philosopher al Farabi, dubbed the second Aristotle; or, more recently, Shokan Valikhanov, the Kazakh intellectual who also opened up Kashgaria. The geography is also spectacular: the Tien Shan mountains and Khan-Tengri, Kazakhstan's highest peak; the bleak lowlands of Mangyshlak and the Karagiye depression, 132 meters below sea level at its lowest point; the mystical Altai and Mount Belukha. Then too we have our legacy from the Soviet period, some of it good, some of it decidedly not: on the one hand, Stalin's prison camps, Karlag and Aljir, and the Semipalatinsk nuclear testing area; on the other, the staggeringly impressive launch site and space centre at Baikonur. And finally, Astana, our new capital city for the third millennium.
It's an enormous country, effortlessly accommodating a huge sweep of history, profound thinkers and awe-inspiring environments.
All of this is Kazakhstan; and yet so few people know it. This is the situation we want to change.
We've done our best in this first number to emphasise Kazakhstan's diversity and the breadth of its potential to the leisure tourist. We have items on Turkestan and Otrar, two ancient cities of southern Kazakhstan; make a trip along Kazakh segments of the Silk Road; visit our two capitals, Astana and Almaty; and follow a Norwegian cyclist along the northern Priaralye. We go fishing in the River Ural and visit the mountains of the Jungar Alatau and the Altai; we walk round the ecological museum in Karaganda and survey the landscapes of the Caspian Sea in the west and Borovoye amid the lakes in the north. These are just a few of the articles you'll find in this number.
We hope you'll enjoy them. We also hope you'll come here, to see something of our country for yourselves. Welcome once again; and bon voyage!
Editor of Discovery Kazakhstan and President of Avalon Historico-Geographical Society
Discovery Kazakhstan magazine is published in collaboration with the Avalon Historico-Geographical Society Public Association