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Discovery Kazakhstan #1

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Text by Zhanna Zueva














I should think quite a lot of our visitors  - our dear visitors -  to Akmola oblast have been dragged along, possibly kicking and screaming, to the resort at Borovoye (Burobai in Kazakh). But they don’t mind in the end. After all, it has everything. Everything to please the mind, the heart and the eye.
Lakes Shchuchye, Borovoye, and the Big and Small Chebachye are all so neatly arranged on quite a small area of land, it was almost as if nature intended this paradise to be a holiday resort.
Tourism has its pluses and minuses: the minuses are high prices, crowds and damage to the environment, and the pluses are improvements to infrastructure and more choice about how you spend your leisure time. Well, Borovoye right now is more or less in the middle. Now’s the time to visit.
Most people come to Borovoye for the views, and presumably that’s why the great Kazakh khan Abylay came here too. Everywhere he went in this part of the world, and just about everything he touched, is researched, catalagued and put on display for the public. One of these places is a glade in the national park where, legend says, Abylay Khan held important feasts and meetings. You can see his stone throne there. Well, they say it’s his throne, but the truth is it looks like an ordinary lump of stone. I was told that it is the throne all right, only it’s been rubbed smooth and featureless by hordes of tourists’ backsides. Moves are apparently afoot to keep vandalous tourists’ posteriors off it in future.
There’s a whole museum devoted to Abylay Khan in Borovoye. We wandered in when it started raining, probably wouldn’t have bothered if the weather had stayed nice; but we weren’t sorry we went in. Apart from the fact that we stayed dry, we met a fantastic guide, a brisk elderly lady  -  we thought she was the grandmother of one of the members of staff at first. Even if you have absolutely no interest in Abylay Khan, go to the museum to meet Amina-apai, you won’t regret it. She told us facts about Abylay Khan, yes; but also jokes about him, a few spicy stories... and it was really interesting! For example, there’s this story that when he was 58 he fell in love with a 15-year-old girl. Nowadays you’d get into trouble with the law if you took things too far with a girl of that age, but in those days they didn’t worry so much about that kind of thing, and anyway Abylay was rich, had a good job so to speak... So in the time-honoured tradition he was told how much her hand (well, more than her hand, obviously; but you know what I mean) would cost, he agreed, and they lived happily ever after. Until he died of course.
Or there’s this one, half-true, half-legend: once, after a raid against some Kalmyk or Jungar villages, Abylay Khan and his men took a lot of booty, including a girl. They decided to share out the loot on the shore of lake Borovoye. When everything had been divided up except the girl, there was, not surprisingly perhaps, a somewhat
heated exchange of words between the khan and his men. When all was said and done, the khan had no choice but to allow her to choose her fiance herself. But how could she choose a fiance from among the cruel and brutal murderers who had killed her family? So she decided on a trick. She climbed a nearby cliff, or perhaps it was a smallish mountain, arranged her kerchief neatly over her head, and said she would marry the first man who hit her kerchief with an arrow. For some reason nobody managed it. In the end she killed herself by jumping off a cliff into the lake. Where she hit the lake’s surface a rock miraculously appeared: it’s called Zhumbaktas. The cliff that she jumped off is called Okzhetpes, which in Kazakh means ’a place which an arrow can’t hit’.
There are lots of interesting exhibits in the museum. Naturally Amina-apai is the highlight, but you can’t be sure how long she’ll continue working there... So if you go there, here are a few more things to look out for: a shield (technically, a buckler, a small shield) used by Abylay Khan against the Jungar invaders; notes by the prominent researcher Shokan Valikhanov, himself a descendant of the great Kazakh khan; and a sword belonging to another, the national hero Kenesary Kasymov.
Kenesary Kasymov and Borovoye are involved in another story which is a little whimsical and mystical. When the great warrior leader was finally captured, he was sent to Saint Petersburg so that the tsar could decide what his fate should be. In the end he was executed and his body disposed of, but nobody knew (or, if they did know, the records were lost) where. Then a few years ago here in Borovoye an old lady had a dream and in her dream she saw the burial place. The authorities excavated the place she mentioned and the body was found.
There are lots of stories like that in Borovoye. It’s that kind of place.

Discovery Kazakhstan
Travel guide#1/2008

Discovery Kyrgyzstan Travel guide #10/2008


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