from Issue 9

Steppe 9 Cover

Top Ten: Astana in Winter

After skiing reached the deserts of the Middle East (as in Ski Dubai, 22,500 m2 of snow and slopes), it was only a matter of time before a reverse phenomenon took place on the Kazakh steppes. Though Astana is the second-coldest capital in the world – temperatures can reach below -30°C, and often do – recently the country’s oil and gas money has been heating it up. The city now boasts indoor tropical beaches and recreational facilities, complete with camels and palm trees, that provide a warm respite from the piercing cold.

Architecture takes on a different dimension as architects take into account the freezing temperatures and salty winds that blow across the steppe. And while inside it is always warm, it pays to be prepared when you leave the building. Many locals stick to traditional fox-fur hats and fur coats to provide warmth in the freezing conditions.

Despite the cold and the empty streets, there is a certain bracing charm to Astana in winter – perhaps its finest time of year. The contrast between the temperatures outside and teh desire to convey warmth inside is skillfully illustrated here by photographer Ikuru Kuwajima, who captures the capital and its people in the dead of winter.