Almaty was the original capital of Kazakhstan, a role that has recently been usurped by Astana. None the less, Matteo Legnani found that its airport remains the busiest in the country.

The terminal opened in 2004, following a fire during the night of July 9-10, 1999, which destroyed most of the older structure. (All photos author)

As the KLM Airbus A330-200 touched down, there was not even the barest hint of reverse thrust – just a gentle slowing against the brakes. The runway on which the aircraft had just landed is one of the longest in Central Asia and among the top 25 in the world, being made up of a ‘mere’ 14,764ft (4,500m) of concrete. It was on this very airstrip, during a glorious period between November 1977 and June the following year, that the Sovietbuilt supersonic transport – the Tupolev Tu-144 Charger, sometimes nicknamed Concordski – landed at the conclusion of each of its 55 scheduled flights between Moscow and Alma-Ata.

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