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The Green Market (Kok Bazaar in Kazakh, Zelyoniy Rynok in Russian) is situated in the rectangle bordered by Zhibek Zholy, Pushkin St, Makatayev St and Kaldayakov St. It is one of the city's classic Central Asian landmarks, and is an essential destination for visitors- those who do not go can barely claim to know Almaty. Hundreds of stands offer everything you can only imagine. In the main hall, dried and fresh fruits and vegetables are displayed picturesque manner; massive heaps of meat and offal from a variety of animals are in huge amounts; and roots and herbs, honey and flowers spread seductive odours reminiscent of of A Thousand and One Nights. Korean salads, fish and caviar compete with turtles and confetti. The market cries of the colourfully dressed women selling fruit and the butchers in their bloodstained overalls are remarkable. Outside, you can find drinks and ice cream, felt socks and CDs, bread and tools, workshops where anything can be repaired, key cutting services and money changers, babushkas selling old personal items, and beggars.

Spurned by the grand and the upwardly mobile as too chilly in winter and somewhat flyblown in summer, the Green Market tends mostly to attract the city's bargain-conscious residents. It struck me as everything a Central Asian market should be. Stall upon stall of dried fruit create a riot of colour set off against billowing linen sheets strung over them to protect the produce from the sun. There are scores of vegetable stands, butchers and wet fish stalls, while in narrow alleys alongside, hundreds of small, open-fronted shops sell shoes, saws, bags of nails, electrical equipment and just about everything else. There are noodle stands and dark corner restaurants and a multitude of horse butchers. The fresh fruit is displayed like jewellery, each piece polished and carefully placed, while spring onions are stylishly trussed in their own stems, and green beans tied neatly in bundles. I first visited the market in summer, but I was later impressed to see the outdoor stalls open for business even in midwinter when old Kazakh women bundled in cardigans and hats sit in the snow, their wares skimpily covered in polythene, as indifferent to the cold as statues.

In Search of Kazakhstan by Christopher Robbins

It's perfectly normal to leave the Green Market heavily laden and considerably lighter in tenge. The market is closed on Mondays. Every citizen of Almaty knows the Barakholka, a kilometre-long stretch on Kuderina Street, parallel to Ryskulova Prospekt. This market offers Asiatic flair, the worst traffic jam in town, abundant merchandise and sensationally modest prices. Traders both inside and outside offer any and everything: food and beverages, clothing, furs, household equipment, building materials, technical equipment, junk and branded goods at wholesale prices or even less. Branded jeans can be bought here for 10 euros, good mountain boots for 12 euros and coats made of karakul fleece for four times that price. It is quite an experience even if you aren't intending to buy anything.

Other markets are found in the outskirts of the city. Most of them specialize in something, for example the market on the corner of Tole Bi St and Mikrorayon Aksay-l offers, apart from fruit, vegetables and other food and beverages, live animals, in particular the popular Central Asian and Caucasian sheepdogs. Closer to the city centre, in the marketplace on the corner of Tole Bi St and Brusilovskovo St, you can find a broad range of furniture and craftwork tools. On the last weekend of each month, the artisans' guild organizes a market of Central Asian handicrafts in front of and within the Zhetisu Hotel.