7 April 2013

Shopping in Kazakh Bazaars

A little earlier I wrote a post about shopping in Kazakh supermarkets.  We can get most of the items we want from those supermarkets but I tend to find that certain things are better bought from the bazaars.  
When we first arrived I was surprised to find that the quality of fruit and vegetable in the supermarkets is fairly low and that the prices are expensive.  I asked our housekeeper where she did her shopping and she directed me to go to the bazaars. 

There are a few to choose from, the best are the Centralni (which is on the way out of town not in the Centre as one would expect) although that suffered a fire recently, Eusasia which is more like a mall with a lot of small independent shops and Artyum, a cross between a bazaar and a shopping mall, which is my favorite place to go.  Artyum is not anything like a bazaar of one’s imagination.  It holds no echoes of the Moroccan Souks, the Istanbul Grand Bazaar or even the bazaars we used to visit in Diyarbakir.  It is a large, square, concrete edifice close to the centre of the old town.  The first time I went there I prepared for disappointment but this changed as soon as we walked inside. 

Bazaar Astana
Ground floor of Artyum Bazaar
The ground floor has three corridors of small shops which are lined with food stalls.  There is a meat market with the meat displayed underneath pictures of the animal of origin.  I do not buy meat there, however, as I am never certain how long it has been since butchering and it does not always look or smell fresh.  The small shops sell all sorts of dried and packaged goods, from cereal to instant noodles, juice to sweets.  The real benefit to shopping here, however, lies in the stalls that line the rows outside the shops.  These sell fresh fruit and vegetables throughout the year.  While the supermarkets seem to carry old, poor quality specimens the stalls always have a good selection of high quality produce.  The stall holders are very friendly and will usually allow you to choose your own so you can be sure of avoiding the rotten pieces.  They go to a lot of trouble to display their wares in interesting patterns and spray them regularly with water to keep them looking fresh and tasty. 

Artyum Vegetables Astana
Friendly stall holders display their wares
It always surprises me when some expatriates complain about the poor variety of fresh ‘greens’ in the winter months as, other than salad I have never found them difficult to buy. Herbs can be difficult to source and expensive to buy in winter but I have followed the suggestion of my housekeeper and buy them at the end of summer when they are plentiful and cheap and then store them in the freezer. Artyum is a good place to practice Russian, the stall holders will happily give you the proper Russian or Kazakh name for any of the vegetables if you ask.  One stall holder I go to regularly even tested me each visit to see if I could remember what she had taught me the last time.

Astana Vegetables
The stalls are beautifully set out
Interspersed between the stalls selling fresh produce you can find stalls with dried fruit, spices and pulses.  I usually pick up some dried chickpeas to make hummus and some dried fruit for a family snack.  Kazakhstan has brought the concept of dried fruit to a whole new level.  Of course we can buy the usual raisins and sultanas, dried apple and apricots but we can also buy dried pineapple, peach and kiwi. 

As you reach the back of Artyum there is a ‘gardening center  of sorts.  Plants from the florists are expensive but some really beautiful plants can be bought here for about 1/3 of the price.  A lot of the gardening stalls sell seeds and I think I will buy some kitchen herbs and possibly some cut and come again salad to sow next winter.

PLants in Artyum
Artyum's Garden Centre
The second floor (Kazakhstan follows the American rather than the European floor numbering tradition) has a range of shops selling homeware, small pets and pet supplies and shoes, there is also a wide range of shops that sell Kazakh souvenirs.  These range from decorative (!) plates and rather tasteless statues of horses and the Baiterek to the distinctive Kazakh felt work.  We bought our vacuum cleaner here and the place is such a warren that every visit turns up something new.  I was over the moon on my last visit to find a shop selling hide chews for dogs.  Our poor girl has been putting up with carrots instead of chews since we arrived here.  She is very fond of carrots which do just as good a job of cleaning her teeth but I know she does not find them as satisfying.

Kazakh Souvenirs
Souvenirs of Kazakhstan
The third floor is full of fashion shops selling clothes for men, women and children.  You can get evening gowns, lingerie, suits and sports ware.  In the winter it is possible to buy Shubas (fur coats) for half or even one third the price of the shops in the major malls and some of the shops sell the beautiful fur hats that most women here wear over the winter.  The debate on fur rages heavily in Europe and America but here in Kazakhstan it is seen as the most practical material to cope with the cold as it is both warm and windproof.
The upper floors carry a range of furniture, craft shops and beauty salons.  The furniture in Artyum is mostly Chinese imports and does not always appeal to western tastes.  Furniture is expensive here in Astana and the bazaars are about the only place to get any at prices I would consider approaching reasonable. 

Click on the picture for more posts on life in Kazakhstan.

Ersatz Expat

10 comments:

  1. Superb account of market shopping xx
    I particularly love your photos, which make everything look so inviting.

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    1. Many thanks Wendy. The stallholders are so friendly - I expected them to refuse to allow photographs but they were happy to model and to show off their stalls.

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  2. You conjure up a fantastic vision for those who do not live here! You write so well.

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  3. Thank you, Jlo for your kind comment, I am so happy to hear that you enjoy the entries.

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  4. Lovely post and description. These might be the first photos I've seen from inside Artiom, although everyone in Astana seems to have been there!

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    1. Thanks Cee.

      Such a change from the supermarket where the ochrana stop any attempts at photographs. Artyum does seem to be like a 'Picadilly Circus' I am sure that if I stayed there long enough I would run into all my Astana friends and acquaintances.

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  5. Any advice on bazaars in Astana? Looking for textiles, sweets, and local food that I can bring back to the united states! Great blog!

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    1. HI there - Artyum is probably the best place for fruits and spices. Food wise there is very little that would export well though. The best place for souvenirs is the gift shop in the Pyramid (they often have textiles and Uzbek pottery there). I think Books and Coffee have some felt goods as well.

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  6. Hi great blog!!! Could you tell me where I can buy fur coats and fur hats?
    Thank you very much!

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    1. Thanks for your kind comment Fur hats are pretty ubiquitous. Chapeau CHapeau has outlets in Artyum, Khan Shatyr and Keruen (or they did in 2014 anyway). Duma enter the Khan Shatyr turn right and it is on the left hand side near an escalator does a better range and tends to have better discounts. For coats there used to be a good shop opposite Costa in Keruen but someone told me that they closed down. Near Duma in the KHan Shatyr but on the opposite side you can find a very up market shop (called MOndial I think) but the furs are very expensive there. I found a coat similar to my own there for 31/2 times the price. I bought mine in Artyum - the third floor I think - you have to ferret around a bit to find a good style and price. If you have the time and inclination you can get very good deals with good, fashionable styles in the market in Almaty or (so I understood from my cleaning lady) in Karaganda but with less up to the minute styling.

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