Sometimes it is very hard to convey the realities of Central Asia. People can just about get the idea of what remote parts of Mongolia are like– they like the idea of “primitive”.
But what about Almaty? It is a huge modern city with tree- lined boulevards and excellent restaurants and cyber- cafes, situated in the green foothills beween 14,000 foot peaks and steppes like the plains of Wyoming. It is inhabited by Kazakhs and Russians living in enviable harmony (and often intermarrying), Germans, Moslems, Orthodox Christians and Orthodox Jews. What’s more, as a Russian friend says, “you can take public transport to snow leopards”.
And the town is inhabited, thronged, by incredibly beautiful and stylish women. Everyone in the US seems to think Central Asian women look like East German Athletes or Stalinist WW II vets– it ain’t so! Renato Sala, an irreverent Italian archaeologist based in Almaty, once said to us through clouds of Gauloise smoke that ” Kazakhstan has the MOST beautiful women– Stalin or Chingizz or somebody must have killed all the ugly ones!” Only an Italian.
Dress is interesting too. Libby thought to bring “Cover Up” clothes in deference to both what we thought were local mores and to the season, but it was still hot (early September) and the local women were dressed in bare midriffs and slit skirts and very high heels.
So, catching up on the usually serious Registan, I was delighted to see this hilarious post from Nathan last month. I think that the one that he describes as owing something to pre- teen D & D players– the one with the tall covered headress and the less modest “body”– might owe something to the Golden “Man”. (Doctor Jeannine Davis- Kimball says he is a she).
Sorry for the image quality of the G. M.— the only photo available wouldn’t load, and this one is a Kazakh kid’s drawing.
(Above image: Our friend Nasyma Raybayevna, who is studying business in Almaty and has lived in London, with a berkut. Photo by Wolfgang Regar– or, as he is known in Almaty, “Regarbayev”.)