Kazakhstan is a vast country covering more than 2.7 million sq km. The country spans over 2,600 km from its western border with Russia to its eastern flank on the Chinese border, thus located in the core of the Eurasian continent. The territory of Kazakhstan is greater than that of the twelve countries of the European Union, and is the ninth largest country of the world. Kazakhstan has a most varied landscape, stretching from the mountainous regions of the east to the energy-rich lowlands in the west, and from the industrialized north, with its Siberian climate and terrain, through the vast, arid steppes of the center, to the fertile south.
Astana (former Akmola) became a new capital of Kazakhstan in 1997 and is being extensively developed to become an important administrative, cultural and scientific center of the Republic. Akmola steppes have always been a territory of inter-ethnic communication of various nations and cultures. Numerous caravan routes gave birth to cities with prosperous trade and handicrafts here, while the population - apart from traditional cattle breeding - was engaged in farming. In the XIXth century Akmola was a substantial commercial and economic center in the Steppe.
Kazakhstan lies at the crossroads of ancient civilizations, the intersection of major transportation routes, cultural, economic, social and ideological links between Europe and Asia, between the East and the West. The South of Kazakhstan, as a part of the Great Silk Road, features a unique complex of historical, archaeological, architectural and cultural monuments. The Northern part of the route runs through the South of Kazakhstan and Semirechye and was the main connection for international trade and cultural exchange. From remote times its inhabitants, the ancestors of the present-day Kazakhs, were engaged in cattle breeding and farming, and created an original culture. Some outstanding monuments of their cultural life have survived in the form of burial mounds, sites of ancient settlements, fortifications, mausoleums and even whole towns. On the territory of contemporary Kazakhstan there are more than 22 sites of ancient settlements, including local rulers' (khans) palaces.
Unique among them is an unexcelled masterpiece of mediaeval architecture –the mausoleum complex of Hodja Ahmed Yassaui, erected at the end of the 14th century in the town of Turkestan and reflecting many achievements of preceding epochs. Hodja Ahmed Yassaui was one of the most prominent Turkic poets and was worshipped as a Muslim saint. The mausoleum became a sacred place for Moslems from all over the world and is visited by 100 - 250 people every day, and during religious holidays the number of pilgrims increases up to 1, 000 people a day.
Unexpected paradise can be found on the territory of the State Park of Altyn-Emel, with rock paintings, the enormous variety of the fauna and the Singing Barkhan. This unique miracle of the nature is a 300-m. high sand hill, which utters sounds, resembling the siren of riverboats.
A crossroad of nomad populations and different cultures for a number of centuries, Kazakhstan offers extraordinary evidence of civilizations, history, traditions and natural beauty, both fascinating and complex to fully grasp at once.