Nearly a decade before a mustached buffoon named Borat put Kazakhstan on the map, the oil-rich nation set out to show how glorious it really is. Billions of dollars have been invested into the Kazak capital, Astana — most visibly by way of a Norman Foster makeover. Last year, the A-list architect completed the Palace of Peace and Reconciliation, a spectacular glass pyramid housing an opera hall and interfaith center. And now, Foster and Partners are putting the final touches on a mammoth entertainment “tent” the size of ten football stadiums. It will also form Astana’s highest peak and bring a year-round beach to the landlocked denizens.
Buoyed by a Borat-inspired tourism boom, the former Soviet backwater is also going five-star. Ritz-Carlton has just announced it’s at work on a 60-story complex that will mix guest suites and apartments. And while Borat provoked outrage throughout Eurasia (Russia banned the film), Kazakhstan has by some measure come around to “accepting” the attention — the country has even offered its own cinematic response. Still, Sacha Baron Cohen may get the last laugh: this fall, the funnyman unleashes his own brand of travel journalism: Borat: Tourist Guidings To Minor Nation of U.S. and A. and Borat: Touristic Guidings To Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.