Monday, November 18, 2013

A visit to the US Embassy

Everything in Astana is sparkly and new. Including the US Embassy.

The U.S. Embassy, Astana, Kazakhstan

While much of Astana is under construction, the Embassy seems to be at the edge of the current new city, although not far from the Kazakh White House.  And, a bit of a fortress.

When you arrive, the entrance is slightly set back from the street.  There's a (bulletproof) glass window in the driveway through which you show your passport to a security guard behind a window to make sure you're on the list to gain access to the building.  Then you get admission to the security building where you enter, take off all your metal objects (but not shoes) and go through metal detectors, just like in an airport...but here you have to surrender any cellphone, camera and/or laptop, leaving it with the security guards. They'll put it in a locker and give you the key. The guards then call your escort, who walks down from the Embassy building and takes you to your destination, probably back to the Embassy building itself.  Once in the Embassy proper you again have to show your badge to a Marine behind a bullet-proof window who will then buzz you into the main part of the building.

The Embassy is part of a good-sized compound with a large circular driveway dividing several buildings within its fenced area.  At the other end of a grassy field we could see the Ambassador's residence, some Marine barracks, and a few other small buildings in addition to the ones described above.

The guards are local Kazakhs, but there are lots of Americans around including some doing maintenance. We talked to them as they were coming in and out of the security building, apparently checking wiring and lighting.

The Embassy itself is bright and shiny and looks brand-new, although it was built in 2006.  We met our local contact and his team, and then asked about the American community in Astana.  There is a Community Liaison who produces weekly publications of varying details about events, activities and news of interest to Americans. We saw flyers for an upcoming happy hour and holiday events in and around the Embassy, and it sounds like when the weather is nice there are outdoor parties on the Embassy grounds as well.

When leaving the building, we retraced our steps with our escort - but noticed there are dozens of cherry trees on the grounds.  While these are currently bearing frozen fruit, it gives a sense of how beautiful it will be in milder temperatures.

Have you ever visited a US Embassy abroad?

1 comment:

  1. I've been to the Dubai Consulate and Shanghai Consulate, and the security process is pretty much the same. At the Shanghai Consulate, though, there was a huge line of people waiting to enter - non US passport holders. I felt a little bad (but not much, since I was in a hurry to get back to school) that I got to breeze past them in the empty citizen only line. I have visited the London Embassy (just the outside) on Grosvener Square. It's very 60s.