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As we enter Astana on the drive back from Burabay, Mac remarks on all the young families out for an afternoon stroll. In the winter they go skating on the river and drill holes in the ice for fishing, while elaborate ice sculptures decorate the streets. ‘When I first came here, I barely saw any prams on the streets,’ he says. ‘In a year, I started to see prams. And after two years, the whole embankment along the river was full of prams.’

And two of them belonged to Mac and his wife Akmaral, who now have a couple of young sons. Back in the city, Akmaral cooks dinner for us while the boys wander in and out of the kitchen. It’s a settled, happy domestic scene.

‘This is a young city built for young families, for a younger generation,’ says Akmaral. ‘It’s a city designed for family life, which is very important for Kazakhs. All the colleagues I came here with have now married and had children – they have become adults and personalities in this city. Astana has become their home. And it has become my home.’

The old complaints have been resolved. Akmaral no longer yearns to return to Almaty, and has no desire to move. ‘I have changed completely, one hundred per cent – I am very happy here,’ she says.

Like its young population, Astana has finally come of age.

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The article ‘New horizons in Kazakhstan’ was published in partnership with Lonely Planet Magazine.

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