Twenty years ago, Kazakhstan’s president Nursultan Nazarbayev made a radical move by moving his country’s capital to a little-known town in the middle of barren grassland.
He renamed the town “Astana,” meaning “capital,” and hired a world-famous Japanese architect to plan every aspect of the city, from its eye-popping skyline to its grandiose government buildings. Today, the city is compared to other planned capitals like Canberra, Brasilia, and Washington, DC.
Yet between Astana’s architectural marvels are streets that are perfectly manicured and eerily quiet, contributing to a surreal atmosphere that permeates the city. CNN called Astana “the world’s weirdest capital city,” while the Guardian called it “the space station in the steppes.”
Israeli photographer Tomer Ifrah recently documented life in Astana, from its nearly empty and suspiciously clean streets to its futuristic skyscrapers that look like something out of a science fiction movie.
Read on to see what life is like in Astana, a planned city like no other.