I reach the ruins of Otrar, an ancient urban site currently a place of an archaeological dig, where workers and archaeologists are involved in the work of recovering what has been buried by earth and time. I go to visit the mausoleum of Arystan Baba, a site of pilgrimage from all over Asia; a place immersed in a land that is lost to the eye towards the horizon, from which stand a few buildings: the old mausoleum, the new white mosque and its adjacent buildings, the sunset-backed profile of the tombs in the surrounding cemetery. On the next step I reach the famous place of worship. Also a great tourist attraction for its historical, cultural and spiritual value, the massive presence of the Mausoleum of Khodja Akhmed Yassaui stands on the very flat horizon of its surrounding territory.
In the gardens of the same mausoleum, tourists used to take family pictures, or would get on a camel for a few tenge, the local currency. I leave the site of the mausoleum to move to the old bazaar in the city of Turkistan, full of people, vendors and local merchandise. In the late afternoon, I visit the historic ex-soviet railway station, where on the first platform I find a large number of small shops that sell any kind of drink, food or object to travellers.
The next day I reach another archaeological site, Sauran, an ancient city dated back to thousands of years ago and destroyed about a thousand years ago. The ruins, currently reduced to the bone, with the exception of the perimeter walls which are still well visible, are immersed in a barren and dusty land, giving you the impression of being almost in the desert. I go back to the city, abandoning for a while the steppes, where on the street I see many old cars, mostly Lada, off-road vehicles and pictures of the president of Kazakhstan.
After travelling back, I am in Almaty again with the memory on my mind of a place so remote and different, not only for me but also for the people from here, accustomed to modernity and contemporaneity of a cosmopolitan city pointed to the future, which contrasts with a zone of Kazakhstan still tied to the past and historical traditions of its wide country.”
Gianfranco Gallucci (1981) is an independent documentary photographer based in Rome. He works mainly getting involved in long term projects focused on landscape, social and cultural issues, exploring the relationship between us and the places we live. His work has been published on italian and foreign magazines such as Taz Berliner Zeitung, Brand Eins, Mitbestimmung, Territorio, l’Espresso, National Geographic Italia, among others, and exhibited in several institutions including Triennale di Milano and MACRO Museum in Rome.