ASTANA – Thousands of revelers took to the streets of Kazakhstan’s capital on Thursday to celebrate Nowruz, the Persian New Year that marks the start of spring and is observed worldwide, but with special exuberance in Central Asia.
Residents were ringing in the Nowruz (New Day) with a brand-new president, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, and the Leader of the Nation, Nursultan Nazarbayev, who on Tuesday, after 30 years at the helm, resigned as president to give the country a springlike start.
Tokayev and Nazarbayev arrived together at the Ethnoaul National Cultural Complex, the main venue for the celebrations, located next to the square where a monument stands marking the 25th anniversary of the independence of Kazakhstan.
The festivities began at the break of dawn: visitors are greeted by characters from Kazakh legends, artisans showed their wares while children rocked back and forth on Kazakh swings called “altybakan.”
In recognition of his Kazakh roots, Nazarbayev wore a chapan (a kind of rope) with gold ornaments.
The “Elbasi” (Leader of the Nation), a title he will hold for life, gave his blessing to several young couples who chose this day to tie the knot.
Nine couples, chosen randomly by the civil registry of the capital, participated in the ceremony.
“I congratulate you with all my heart on this bright and happy day, I wish young people happiness, a long love that does not wither, that the country is at peace, that your lives are good, that your home is full of children. That they cheer their parents with grandchildren, and they are faithful to their people,” Nazarbayev said.
In the capital of Kazakhstan, six ethnic villages with yurts were installed, cultural activities and traditional Kazakh sports were carried out.
The delights of Kazakh gastronomy were on display on this sunny spring day in Astana, which may be its last under that name.
Lawmakers on Wednesday voted to change the name of the capital to Nur-Sultan in a parliamentary nod to the beloved leader.