Swimming in Kazakhstan on a -40 winter’s day

Kazakhstan is a country on Central Asia that’s possibly best known for being the home of Borat, except that Borat has never actually been to Kazakhstan, and the place we saw in the film that represented Kazakhstan was Romania, itself a former basket case that was once ruled by the despot Ceausescu.

Kazakhstan is one of the six Turkic States, and was formerly part of the USSR.  Apart from Borat, Kazakhstan gave the world the apple, for that’s where apples originally grew in their wild state prior to being cultivated.

So why am I so excited about Kazakhstan?  Simply because it is now home to the world’s biggest tent.  Kazakhstan’s Capital is Astana, and it is there that a giant tent that is 150 metres tall (490 feet) has just opened in celebration of the nation’s 13th, and the President’s 70th, birthdays.

This is no ordinary tent!  It covers an area of over 140,000 square metres, which means that there’s more than enough room for the sleeping bag.  In fact, inside this tent, which is called the Khan Shatyr Entertainment Centre there’s room for a shopping and entertainment centre, an amusement park, Water Park, cinema and a multi-station monorail. The tent also houses indoor beaches, waterfalls, a mini golf course and botanic gardens. The roof of the building is covered with transparent plastic material to withstand Kazakhstan’s extreme weather.

Extreme weather?  Yes, it can get to about -40 in the harsh Kazakh winter, but the tent is insulated, meaning that the inside temperature can hover around 25 degrees Celsius.  It might be warm inside the tent, but I’m not quite sure whether they’re ready to see men bathing in mankinis yet.

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