Almaty, the cultural and business center of Kazakhstan, celebrated the spring festival Navruz throughout the city, including a series of concerts attracting thousands of residents and tourists to Astana Square in front of the old parliament building. With balloons for sale by the hundreds, village elders dressed in traditional Kazakh costumes and games of tug-a-war in the crowd, groups of musicians and dancers representing various ethnic and national groups, including Chechen, Cossack, Azeri and Russian, performed throughout the day.
Others gathered in front of the old Academy of Sciences building for camel rides and traditional food including plov (rice pilaf), baursaki (fried dough), shashlik (skewers of grilled mutton) and nauriz köje (yogurt soup made with seven ingredients).
At Republic Square, families strolled with children, admiring the statues dedicated to famous Kazakhs or placing their hands into a bronze book containing the palm print of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev and the phrase "Choose and Be Happy." On the top of Kok-Tobe, reached by a cable car from the city, couples embraced on terraces with views across the hazy city as the sun set for the day.