Cover photo © Credits to Zhanna Lorde/Wikipedia
Cover photo © Credits to Zhanna Lorde/Wikipedia

Atyrau: the oil kingdom of Kazakhstan

3 minutes to read

Which place comes to your mind when you think about oil reserves? Probably, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, or even Azerbaijan. If you ask this question to Kazakh people, the first answer will be Atyrau. For them, Atyrau is the oil kingdom of Kazakhstan. Atyrau is a western city of Kazakhstan and the administrative center of the Atyrau region. It is located on the banks of the Ural River. The informal name of the city is "the oil capital of Kazakhstan".

Picture © Credits to Ds02006/Wikipedia
Picture © Credits to Ds02006/Wikipedia

A bit of history

Atyrau is actually an ancient city. The first mention of the place, which wasn't called Atyrau at that time, dates back to the 3-4 centuries BC. Officially, the history of the city begins only in 1640. The Ust-Yaitsky town, which means "a town located at the Yaik River" (in the 17th century, it was renamed to Ural River), was founded by a Russian merchant Gury Nazarov. In the 19th century, the town became known as Guryev Town, and later simply Guryev. The main goal of Gury Nazarov was to organize profitable fishing. The oil reserves were less interesting for Guryev. Although the locals knew about the liquid with a specific smell even in antiquity, they didn't know that it is an oil, so they collected it from shallow pits and used mainly for the treatment of skin diseases.  

Atyrau today

Honestly speaking, tourism is not really developed in Atyrau, but this place is attractive for foreign investors. Today, more than 300 foreign companies are engaged in the oil business in Atyrau. But there's a big plus - there are no crowds, prices are affordable, and the city is small, so you won't be lost. Moreover, if you like an unusual architecture style, this city is for you. The look of Atyrau is chaotic: old buildings and modern shopping centers and hotels can be found side by side. There are plenty of memorials and statues, like in any other city, that you can see in one day. However, here are the unique things that can be found only in Atyrau:

1) The interactive musuem of Embamunaigas JSC

The interactive museum of Embamunaigas JSC, an oil company, is located in their premised in the center of Atyrau. Using the latest advances in the field of audiovisual elements, you will learn about the formation and development of the company itself and the oil industry. It also includes information about the famous oil industry, labor veterans, drummers production and labor dynasties of the oil company. Even the “least advanced” visitor can deal with the exposition. The technology of viewing the touch pads of an interactive museum is based on gesture control.

Embamunaigas company in Atyrau
Embamunaigas company in Atyrau
Embamunygaz, Shoqan Walikhanov St 1, Atyrau 060000, Kazakhstan

2) A memorial sign of the border between Europe and Asia

This memorial sign stands right on the border between Europe and Asia. This symbolic border for many years passed over the bridge over the Ural River. Although geographers dispute this division, locals are proud of their privileged position as residents of two continents, anyway. You can take pictures at the memorial sign on the right bank of Ural River.

A memorial sign of the border between Europe and Asia in Atyrau
A memorial sign of the border between Europe and Asia in Atyrau
Abay St, Atyrau, Kazakhstan
Picture © Credits to Ds02006/Wikipedia
Picture © Credits to Ds02006/Wikipedia

3) The road bridge over Ural River

The road bridge over the Ural River, built entirely of concrete and without supports, is the only structure with such technology in Kazakhstan. You don't have to look on the map for this place because it's the only road bridge over Ural River in Atyrau. 

The road bridge over Ural River in Atyrau
The road bridge over Ural River in Atyrau
Mukhtar Auezov Ave, Atyrau, Kazakhstan

Even though Atyrau is the oil kingdom of Kazakhstan and not really a touristic destination, it's worth coming at least to admire Ural River and know the history of the oil industry. Local people will warmly welcome you. 


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The author

Heewon Jang

Heewon Jang

My name is Heewon. My interests are travelling, photography and literature. I know how to do things right but I'll always do like i want to :).

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