Skip to main content

PV Logo w slogan Hoiz

HomeBlogsRead Blog


Kazakhstan: Where the “h” is that?
By Clare Novak
Posted on 11/25/2018 8:00 AM


Kazak^stan:  Where the “h” is that?


Along the Ishim River Walk

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) invited Clare Novak to present on “Women in Traditional Electric Utilities” at the Capacity Building Workshop on “Promoting clean and affordable energy to empower women.”

The Capacity Building Workshop was held in conjunction with the World Petroleum Council (WPC) conference in Astana, Kazakhstan, October 2018. Ms. Novak was honored to join the distinguished speakers from the Central Asia region.

Musicians in traditional Kazakh dress

Part I

That just happened. A plane ticket arrived in my email Thursday morning and I landed in Astana, Kazakhstan, 11 pm local time Saturday night with a hotel reservation, a dead laptop and broken readers. It was well after that I finally dropped off to sleep. 

Even before eating breakfast, I figured out how to print my presentation, get my conference badge and conversed with a Texan. By then, it was past 10 am local time and the shopping mall next door to the hotel was open. Not wanting the giant hotel buffet, I went to a mall coffee shop for a perfectly respectable spinach omelet and cup of coffee for a fraction of hotel costs. 

Searched for a store to buy readers, but no luck. The central court of the mall hosted a number of local designers. After looking through and finding a few interesting things I declined to buy as the outfits would have felt too “costumey” back home. Otherwise, it was just a mall with the same tired selection of stores with the exception of the shoppers—Kazakh “Mall Mommies.” Nearly every woman had a stroller and toddler. While Kazakhstan is majority Muslim, the women choose to leave their hair, overwhelmingly black and long, uncovered and wear jeans and other clothes that would blend in with what is familiar to us. 

Sunshine propelled me to commandeer a tourist map and walk, and walk, and walk…. Astana is a planned city built to the scale of vehicles rather than feet. The city is meticulously clean, so clean I started looking for trash and found only a gum wrapper. Colorful flowers framed the boulevards and for all of that, I found the glass modernity lacking a soul. 

Looking to escape, I headed for the river walk and happened upon a curious building. It was small and appeared to be a recreation of some older style, perhaps the old way of Kazakhstan. I had no way of knowing. The Riverwalk was lovely in the 70-degree sun. Parents walked strollers or rode bikes with their kids. I sat on a bench for a while and watched the fishermen. Tired but glad to have been out, I returned to my room to practice my presentation a few more times. 

Since the mall had a number of restaurants, I went to the Black Duck. Under the supposition that when a restaurant is named after a dish, it’s best to order that dish. The duck breast in dark cherry sauce was indeed the best smoked duck I’d ever eaten. This being only the second meal of the day, I indulged in dessert and coffee. The recommended dessert was a light pastry made of ground nuts rolled with a light whipped cream with whole raspberries. Delicious!

Jet-lagged and conscious of wanting to be at my best for the next day’s presentation, I opted return to the hotel. Fortunately, I was sufficiently exhausted to sleep even with the ten-hour time difference telling my body it was time to have coffee and start the day. 

This blog will be continued in a few weeks with more about international colleagues and Kazakh culture.

Hazret Sultan Mosque, Astana, Kazakhstan

Clare Novak is an international speaker, author and consultant. Her work and personal travel have taken her to 45 States and 35 countries. Her international work began in Egypt and has since taken her to some less commonly visited countries, including Georgia, Jordan, Kenya, Kuwait, Macedonia, Nigeria, Pakistan and Ukraine. Her travel website is  

Leave a Comment