Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Last weekend was a three day weekend celebrating the feast of Eid Al-Adha.  This is a Muslim holiday meaning The Feast of the Sacrifice.  Some readers may be surprised to learn that the Sacrifice in particular, was not a sacrifice but the willingness of Ibrahim to sacrifice his only son, Ishmael, on God's command.  This, in the Bible, is the story of Abraham and Isaac.  Many Old Testament prophets also appear as prophets in the Quran. 


So, thanks to Abraham, we had an extra days holiday.  Unfortunately this is not the place for jumping in the car and heading out into the countryside and staying in a little characterful cottage, there being no countryside and no cottages.  So not being as organised as those people who flew out for a few days , we did the Atyrau equivalent of taking a trip in the country and walked around the town a lot.  This is easier in the new apartment as it is about 3km to the river, which is the best place to walk.  The shortest and best route out of Zheti Kasyna is to head out to the canal and walk along the canal bank to the main airport road, Satpaeva, and then follow that road to the river, which is exactly what we did. Starting at the top right picture (and going round clockwise) we left the compound and followed the dirt track to the gravel road.  Then we climbed up the canal bank and walked along it, going under the hot water pipes and up to the road.  Unfortunately this will not be easy when it gets wet and snowy.

It is only abot a kilometer to the nearest shopping center, Tamasha.  Though this is not one that we use very much.  As we walked past Tamasha we could see a cloud of smoke in the distance.  

It looked as if a car was on fire as it came from the road.  But we got closer and it moved closer till we could eventually make out that it was a street cleaning truck.   

This is a first time sighting for us here and leaves us wondering what will happen to the dozens of street sweepers that are usually relied upon to do this work!
A couple of summers ago after the sidewalks were completed along Satpaeve, a beautification project happened.  This was the appearance of rows of large flower planters all the way down each side of the street.  These are planted in summer with colourful annuals, and laboriously watered by hand.  

Well, in the last couple of months there has been a further development, the appearance of bright orange trash bins all over town.  This one was part of the riverside walk tribe of bins, but there are also two columns of them on each side of Satpaeva now, as you can see in the picture on the left.  The old style blue bins are now likely to be a thing of the past as Atyrau take another step to becoming a city of the future!

Another development on Satpaeva has been the disappearance of the construction site between Ardager and the Renaissance Hotel.  This was once rumoured to be the site of the Renaissance extension, but is now the site of the Renaissance overflow car park and mini-park. It looks a great deal better.  The old photograph below shows what the space used to look like.

We continued our walk over the bridge to Asia.  We wanted to take a look at the damage that had occured a few days before when there was a fire under the bridge which resulted in the loss of the internet for a large part of the city!  Last summer I watch the workmen toiling on the bridge and these cables, and was impressed by their casual approach to wiring.  I think now that something might have become a bit too hot!

We crossed the Ural and continued our walk along the river as we were on a mission to try a different restaurant for lunch.  This restaurant, Venezia, is of course Italian, and apparently owned by an Italian who has been in Atyrau for a few years and operates it with a guest house/hotel above.  The picture below has been copied from the internet (attributed to rove75, thank you) as I forgot to take a picture.  However, I did take a picture of the menu and the food.  It is a simple place seating about 30, some on a large communal table. The guests were all Italian.  The menu was in Italian.  The presumed owner was indeed Italian and shouty loud!  Sandra had a good pork and bean soup and I had spaghetti with olive oil, garlic and chili.  She then had grilled chicken and I had braised rabbit which I haven't seen on an Atyrau menu before.  As you can see in the picture below, the set menu was not very compicated.  An a la carte menu had mainly pizza on it.  The food was good and inexpensive and the restaurant is worth another visit.

When we left we went exploring for another restaurant that we have been trying to locate.  We have to go there by taxi!  We didn't find it, though as you can see in the pictures below, we looked in looked diligently.

Unfortunately that afternoon the air started to deteriorate. We have had problems for the past days with either petrochemical smells from the refinery, of burning garbage smells from the dump.  That day it was very hazy and smelly.  

Going back over the bridge we saw an oncoming wedding motorcade.  This was remarkable as it contained two streched limos, which could be the entire streched limo population of Atyrau, clearly an important wedding!

Saturday night is curry club night, so we headed home to recover in time for a visit to the Green Hotel and a curry evening.


I didn't blog about Fridays walk, which was not dissimilar to Saturdays!  Sundays walk was also much the same, though we took a different route out of the compound, which is about as exciting as it gets!

On Sunday we had lunch at Noodles.  Noodle has managed to escape my blogging thus far, so I will now put that right!

Just past the Renaissance, going towards the river on the other side of the street is Noodles restaurant.  It is by far the most cosmopolitan restaurant in Atyrau having an extensive menu with pictures of the dishes and with each dish being labelled with a flag denoting its country of origin. There are many flags! 

There are no prizes for guessing that it has the ubiquitous pizza and pasta, thus elevating it to international status immediately.  It also has Kazakh dishes though not the truly serious ones with sheep's head and horse. But it also has Thai, Japanese, American and others, including, what we have found to be the safest bet, Turkish, which is what we stopped and ate.  We had pide and borek (Turkish pizzas and pasties) and lentil soup.  All was quite acceptable as an occassional snack meal.

You may notice that in the picture there is shakily focused picture of a Gloria Jean coffee bar.  This is an Australian chain which has an outlet in Noodles.  The coffee menu says all the right things, though I don't know if the coffee is any good, and I have never found anyone who has tried it, though I haven't made that a priority.  I think I will have to go back and do some more menu research. 

We walked on to the Theatre where we bought tickets to the ballet.  A touring company is visiting next week on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.  We bought two tickets (best in the house!) for both Monday and Tuesday (we have a dinner engagement on Wednesday) so how desperate are we for a spot of culture?  Oh, and lest you think us extravagant the best tickets were about Euros25 each, which wont get you any kind of seat in California!

Sandra at the Box Office.
Sandra negotiated the purchase with great competence.  She was shown a diagram of the theatre seating with only a very few seats circled as already taken.  We made our selection, the lady in the ticket office spoke to someone else behind her, who then informed us that the seats were not available.  Eventually it came down to the standard method of choosing, used mainly with restaurant menus; they tell you what you can have.  But it worked and we are looking forward to next weeks adventure.

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