28 April 2013

The Khan Shatyr - Astana's Giant Tent

The very cold winter temperatures mean that large indoor spaces are a vitally important part of life here in Astana and as such we have a number of very large shopping centers. 

We have 5 large malls within walking distance of our house.  Each of them come complete with a supermarket, a food court, café’s, a cinema and a range of clothes, shoe and toy shops.  Most also have indoor play areas for children and one even has a climbing wall.

Astana Khan Shatyr
Khan Shatyr
The Khan Shatyr is the most recently built of all the malls and possibly the most iconic.  It is at the western end of Nurzhol boulevard.  Designed by Norman Foster, it opened in 2010.  A large tent, designed as a modern interpretation of a yurt, it stands at 150m high and covers a ground area of 100,000 sq meters. Various websites boast that it is the largest tensile structure in the world.  I am not quite sure as I thought that honour went to the London Milennium Dome.  In any even the Khan Shatyr is huge, impressive and much more beautiful than the London counterpart.

Khan Shatyr Model
Khan Shatyr - future model
The Khan Shatyr is the center of what will be a large complex including office space and residential buildings.  The first thing you see when you enter the building is a large model showing the mall and its surrounding buildings.  Only two of the towers have been completed so far and they are connected to the shopping center by a covered walkway.  We did look into whether or not to rent a flat in one of these buildings, thinking that it would be very convenient to be able to walk, undercover, to the supermarket in the winter.  The flats looked spectacular but were rather small and expensive for the space. I am not too keen on the supermarket in the Khan Shatyr in any event.

Long drop fairground ride
As you walk into the immense open space at the center of the mall you come face to face with a large long drop style fairground ride   This open space plays regular host to events such as fashion shows or 'Miss Khan Shatyr' competitions.  There are more fairground rides, games machines and soft play areas on the upper levels including a log flume and a monorail.  It is somewhat reminiscent of Brighton Palace pier.  Children love to ride around the perimeter of the mall, looking at the people enjoying their weekend and waving to all and sundry.

Busy soft play under the tent.
4th Floor Khan Shatyr
Monorail in the Khan Shatyr
Aside from wandering around and enjoying the cutting edge architecture the real reason to come to the Khan Shatyr is the sky beach.  The top floor is dedicated to a spa and swimming pool complex.  The swimming pools are surrounded by sand flown in from the Maldives.  Here you can enjoy flume rides, swim, play volleyball or just relax with a smoothie from the bar even when the temperatures have dropped to -50 degrees outside but sadly it is an expensive place to visit.  Discount websites such as chocolife.me sometimes have vouchers on sale for cut price entry but without these you are looking at a cost of about 8,000 tenge (nearly £40) per person so we usually only ever go when friends or family come to Astana.  There is a gym attached to the spa with a running track around the perimeter of the tent.  It certainly looks spectacular but I have never seen anyone brave enough to run around under the beady eye of people enjoying their burgers or fairground rides.

Khan Shatyr Sky Beach
Swim on the beach - even when it is freezing
Enjoy the beach in the middle of the steppe. 
Astana Khan Shatyr
Running track - for the very brave and figure unconscious
The walls of each floor are covered in artificial plants giving a welcome splash of green in the middle of winter.  This is the place to come if you want to pick up imported clothes from stores such as Gap, Zara, Massimo Dutti etc but I tend to find that the other malls have better supermarkets and food courts.  The parking is also somewhat chaotic and it is expensive (500 tenge/£2) to park underground.   I actually enjoy seeing the Khan Shatyr from the outside far more than spending time inside.  It is a spectacular addition to Astana's beautiful and rather unconventional skyline and looks it's best at sundown when the sunset bathes it in orange.

Khan Shatyr Sunset
Spectacular sunsets - even when snapped from a telephone
Click on the picture for more posts on life in Kazakhstan.

Ersatz Expat

Posted as part of the Show Your World series hosted by Girl Gone London

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