Site Logo  Atyrau
There seems to be a tendency among travel writers to apply adjectival epithets to cities which are not needed. The most striking example is to ‘nestle’ a city or a town etc somewhere, maybe suitable for a quaint alpine village snugly tucked in the valleys, but to say a city like Istanbul is ‘nestled’ anywhere is a touch ambitious.

Atyrau, however, is nestled, very much so, between two major continents, the main centres of the city situated either side of the Ural River, which constitutes the geographical boundary between each of Asia and Europe. The sign, Europe, welcomes visitors to that very side which like its Asian counterpart offers plenty of evidence of the progress the region is making, and more yet of the masses of oil revenue coming into the city every year.

Lacking perhaps a distinct city centre, Atyrau has most things you would expect to find in a city like this, not nestled in themselves but spread out across a wide area, from an impressive Mosque to a beautiful Orthodox church, coexisting no more than a few hundred metres away from each other. This represents to the visitor one of the main qualities of Kazakhstan, that different cultures, religions and languages can coexist in such a way.

Linguistically, Atyrau is not restricted to Russian in the way Almaty is, nor even to Kazakh, there being a sizeable percentage of ex-pats living here bringing English into the arena in a big way, most people here seem to be trilingual, restaurant service similarly reflecting this with simple (a word I mean positively) waitresses aged barely 20 able to communicate to customers fluently in all three. English people in England that age with skills like that would command better jobs than table service jobs, put it that way.

Shopping in Atyrau may have some catching up to do but it is reasonably well catered for and not too expensive. The likelihood is as the city continues to reap the billions in oil revenue they will open more shops, build more shopping centres and attract more investment, such is the Kazakh cycle these days, change very ably represented by the flourishing city of Atyrau.