A celebratory lunch was held at the Kazakhstan Embassy on Friday May 3rd in honour of six Kazakhs who are passing through Brussels as part of a two-month, 5,830 km cycling journey from London to Kazakhstan.
The cyclists represent a cross section of the country’s extraordinarily diverse society, and consist of an Uighur, a Tatar, a Korean, a Russian, and two ethnic Kazakhs. Their slogan for the trip is “Beibitshilik Jáne Birlik”, or “Peace and Unity”, highlighting the two main virtues that the trip is aiming to promote.
“We want to demonstrate a spirit of friendship and tolerance,” said Aigul Kuspan, the Ambassador of Kazakhstan to Belgium. “Kazakhstan is a country with more than 130 different nationalities: in addition to the groups represented here, we have Poles, Germans, Chechens, people from the Baltics, as well as many other groups and nationalities. But we want to show the world that we are all, ultimately, part of the same Kazakh family.”
Mr Yerbolat Sembayev, deputy chief of mission at the Kazakh embassy, agreed: “This trip is a good way to demonstrate our national unity to everyone in Europe.” He then added: “It’s also good that the cyclists are trying to give a picture of Kazakhstan to the European people.”
During the event both words and gifts were exchanged between the cyclists and Robert Moerman, president of Royale Amicale Cycliste Uccle, a local cycling club. “I really like what they’re doing,” said Mr Moerman. “They’re helping to open people’s eyes to a country that really isn’t that well known here in Belgium.”
The cyclists’ journey – which is taking place during Kazakhstan’s ‘Year of the Youth’ – began on the 29th of April in London, just before Kazakhstan’s ‘Day of Unity’ on May 1st: a national holiday celebrating cultural understanding between the country’s various ethnic groups.
After passing through Amsterdam, Berlin, Warsaw, Minsk, and Moscow, the cyclists are scheduled to finish their trip in Nur-Sultan (formerly Astana), the capital of Kazakhstan, on the 6th of July – also known in Kazakhstan as the ‘Day of the Capital’, another important national holiday which honours the heritage of the country’s capital city.
During the trip the cyclists will be sleeping in tents and hostels, and will frequently be sharing photos and video footage of their experiences on social media.
Interestingly, none of the six participants are professional cyclists. “They are just regular Kazakhs, regular amateur cyclists, and regular people,” said Magzhan Sagimbayev of the Kazakh Geographic Society, the main institution responsible for organising the trip (with support provided by the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan).
“It’s a wonderful experience,” said Dilmurat Rakhmatulayev, one of the cyclists. “In fact, it’s a dream come true: going travelling, seeing these capital cities, seeing these countries. Of course it’s physically tough, but it’s also very fun. And it’s all gone well so far.”
His fellow cyclist, Azamat Atantay, agreed, before adding: “The beauty of cycling is that you meet regular people. In a car you mostly just stay in your own space all the time, and you usually move through places far too quickly to get a feel for them. On the other hand, if you’re walking, you really don’t see too many different things. Cycling is just right. You see a lot, but you still get the chance to interact with normal people.”
He continued: “What’s most important to us, though, is that we’re a peaceful country. While we’re on this trip, we want to share our experience of peace with others.”