Tuesday, September 2, 2014


Assalamu 'Alaikum,


That’s Ramstore to you and me, a shopping mall a good 20 minutes walk away from the hotel I’m staying at in this beautiful city the other side of the Himalayas. Yes, a walk I had to make succumbing to modern man’s weakness of life can’t be lived without a charger.

Yes I remembered ensuring I took the international converter everywhere in my travels the last couple of years, but I never had occasion to need it! So I never bothered to remember to bring it this time, only to find out that this time it was much needed, and that life is rather uncomfortable if you don’t have the stuff to recharge your smart phone and your smart laptop. Appeals were sent everywhere via emails and whatsapp to any fellow citizens nearby to assist a fellow citizen in distress.

Only when the hotel reception said for the umpteenth time that no international guest had return their converter did I decide to take thing into my own hands. After all I did promise Facetime with the loved ones at home soon, and I have tons of work and co curricula activities to do on my laptop. Yesterday the receptionist did show me a map of town and how near Ramstore was where I could buy the plug converter. Of course when people from cold countries say it’s a short walk; it’s actually a long walk for those from hotter countries. That’s because those for hot countries walk under the hot sun whereas those from colder climes walk under breezy winds.

Anyway I enjoyed the walk and got to see the city up close. With pretty parks and grandiose buildings AlMaty is just like any European city. I imagine this must be a pretty cold place in the winter. When Pak Mus my Islamic Finance Sifu asked me whether I could oblige him by delivering a paper at a Sukuk conference in AlMaty, Kazakhstan I said yes because I had talked and heard much about this country but never had occasion to visit it before. Not so long ago I was on the other side of the Caspian on the Russian Muslim side. Now I’m on the other side of the Caspian. With the south of Caspian covered with a visit to Iran yorns ago I guess I got this lake pretty well covered.

Kazakhstan is the largest land locked country in the world and as the 9th largest country in the world it is even bigger than the whole of western Europe. It is an intriguing country, oil rich and with a 70% Muslim population it is also a member of the OIC. With its President targeting 2050 as the date Kazakhstan will become a developed country this is certainly a country one cannot ignore.

On the flight to Almaty, which name literally means centre for apples, I was intrigued the airplane video showed we were going to fly over the Himalayas and Everest to reach the city. I thought to myself how many times our thoughts stopped at Everest and Himalayas and never considered what lies beyond there. Now I know the other side of Everest is this beautiful land of many countries with city names like Almaty, Bishkek, Urumqi and Samarkand. Such romantic notions such names bring up. I must ask my pilot friends why the plane never made the jump over Everest but instead tailed westwards along the foothills of the Himalayas and only turned northwards over the mountains at Kabul.

As I walked along the parks of the city I note with glee that I could actually pass as a local. Kazakhs which made up 70% of the 17 million people of Kazakhstan are north Asian looking with a tinge of Aryan DNA in their looks perhaps. They are the outright descendants of Mr Genghiz and Mr Kublai, two well known Warrior Rulers of the past. That their descendants look so docile and could easily fit into an English tea and cucumber sandwiches party, belies their past.

Yes I did get my plug converter in the end, after combing through the entire spanking new mall. It’s pronounced RamStore and spelled Russian as Pamctop. I also remembered Moscow had a lot of Pektopahs; see whether you can figure out what that stands for. Interesting how malls look the same throughout the world but of course with telling signs of different cultures and languages. It was quite a walk back to the hotel but I imagine it must be very pretty in spring.

Praise be to the Creator for creating so many beautiful places; just remains to be seen whether the created remembers, and thank the Creator, for the creations.

Zahid C72

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