Until the 1950s Astana (Aqmola), was a tiny mining town. Then Nikita Khruschev announced his Virgin Lands scheme to turn 250,000 sq km of Kazakhstan steppe into wheat fields.
By tradition, Kazakhs are Sunni Muslims of the Hanafi school. The Kazakhs adopted Islam gradually, with complete conversion only in the early 19th century.
Kazakh tea or chai is very popular and there are national cafes called Chai-Khana (tea-rooms) where visitors may sip this Kazakh speciality. It is drunk very strong with cream.