Borat and the real Kazakhstan

Travel Destinations — By on December 8, 2006 at 12:39 pm

The movie Borat, about a fictionalized journalist from Kazakhstan on a journey through America, has been the source of much laughter in movie theaters in recent weeks.  That is, when the same movie wasn’t causing horrified jaws to drop.  It has also caused a surge in interest in the actual country of Kazakhstan.

USA Today recently ran a story about the “real Kazakhstan.”

At a national park an hour’s drive from the largest city in the ninth-largest country on earth, men with broad smiles and sharp knives crouch over the steaming entrails of a horse whose meat they’ll be savoring for months.

Back in town at a Wi-Fi-friendly coffeehouse, wafer-thin women clad in Dolce & Gabbana and stiletto boots nibble smoked salmon sandwiches against a backdrop of Toyota Sequoias and Lexus sedans.

And in the chilly parking lot of what’s billed as the world’s highest Olympic skating rink, members of a champagne- and vodka-fueled wedding party – one of 70 or 80 a day on weekends – kick up their heels to a traditional Caucasus folk dance called the lezginka.

Welcome to the glorious, previously obscure nation of Kazakhstan.

The sudden interest in Kazakhstan appears ready to fuel an increase in tourism, according to the NY Post:

Travel agents in the United States and Britain say they have seen a big increase in inquiries about trips to Kazakhstan since the Sacha Baron Cohen flick was released. … And Kazakh Embassy officials in Washington told The Times of London that it has been getting 100 calls per week asking advice for how to visit and what to expect in the country.

Not surprisingly, some ambitious Kazakhs have taken advantage of this wave of publicity:

Sayat Tours, a travel company based in Kazakhstan’s largest city, Almaty, is using the slogan, “Take that, Borat,” to market its “Kazakhstan vs. Boratstan Tour” of “the country’s spectacular deserts, soaring mountains and beautiful women.”

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1 Comment

  1. Carolyn says:

    Having lived in Kazakstan for 2 years (and anxiously looking forward to seeing ‘Borat’!), I will say that it is a beautiful country with many wonderful people – but perhaps not the best tourist destination yet. There is a lack of infrastructure, and travel might be considered ‘harsh’ by the average Western standards. Also, learn some Russian and at least a few words in Kazak before heading over – not too many people speak English!

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