- darkometer rating:  4 -
This central Kazakhstan town, just north of Karaganda, is a heavy-industry centre of infernal proportions, which includes one of the largest integrated steel plants in the world. The countless chimney stacks and outlets of pollution constantly emit trails of smoke, mushroom clouds of steam (from the coking plant) and even dark yellow plumes of hazy gaseous substances whose chemical composition you don't even want to ask about.
To add to the infernal looks, the social problems of the place are a match too, such as the highest HIV rate in the country and widespread alcoholism. Accordingly, some parts of town are (quoting the Bradt guidebook to Kazakhstan) considered "rough".
For most people Temirtau is a veritable hellhole – i.e. for those (like myself) who get a kick out of industrial wastelands' pseudo-apocalyptic aesthetics it's heavenly!
Even though you can easily get to Temirtau by local bus from Karaganda, you'll need a car and driver to get around here and see the gigantic industrial backdrop from as close up as possible, but obviously you can't actually get inside any of the sites as a regular tourist.
Other than a drive past the enormously expansive industrial plants, a side trip to the town centre is also a worthwhile addition to an excursion to Temirtau (which, by the way, means 'mountain of iron' in Kazakh!).
The steelworkers monument opposite the intersection of Prospekt Respubliki and Prospekt Metallurgov is a fantastic celebration of the profession. High on a red marble plinth, backed by a tall steel obelisk, two statues of stern-looking metallurgy workers stand in collaborative unity. At least one of the two workers depicted bears an uncanny resemblance to President Nazarbayev. That would be fitting, given that as a young man Nazarbayev did indeed spend some of his Socialist formative years in the Soviet Union as a metalworker in Termirtau – a fact that is also celebrated on numerous posters all over the town.
The Steelworkers' Palace of Culture next door to the steelworkers monument sports a row of fantastic sculptured heads made of silver tin – and best of all a huge proper "iron lady" dominates high up in the centre of the front facade, like a knight-ess in shining silver armour. Or rather a Caesar-like Roman heroine – given that she's holding up a tin laurel wreath and wearing a skimpy tunic-like dress. The latter is made out of strips of tin, too … and it is in fact skimpy enough to leave one of her perfectly cone-shaped tin breasts exposed. It must have been the result of metal-worker-cum-amateur-sculptor's wet dream. Priceless!
Next to the cultural palace and just behind the steelworkers monument a new museum was being built at the time of my visit in August 2011, but I could not determine of what nature it would be. Maybe it's to be a gallery of tin art?
Location: 25 miles (40 km) north of the provincial capital of Karaganda in central Kazakhstan. The steelworks form the southern and eastern boundaries of the town, the steelworkers monument and cultural palace are to be found to the north-west of the industrial complex in the centre of town, near the shores of the huge reservoir that form the northern boundary of Temirtau.
Few people will want to stay the night in Temirtau, but those who'd like to (or must) can do so at the fittingly, if unimaginatively, named Hotel Steel (at 4 Prospekt Respublika).
Google maps locator: [50.066,72.97]
  • Temirtau 01 - proud signTemirtau 01 - proud sign
  • Temirtau 02 - infernal sightsTemirtau 02 - infernal sights
  • Temirtau 03 - pollution and the cityTemirtau 03 - pollution and the city
  • Temirtau 04 - suspiciously yellow fumesTemirtau 04 - suspiciously yellow fumes
  • Temirtau 05 - you do not want to know how toxic all this isTemirtau 05 - you do not want to know how toxic all this is
  • Temirtau 06 - lots of pipesTemirtau 06 - lots of pipes
  • Temirtau 07 - pipes of all sizes everywhereTemirtau 07 - pipes of all sizes everywhere
  • Temirtau 08 - chimneys and pipe forming a HTemirtau 08 - chimneys and pipe forming a H
  • Temirtau 09 - the coking plant letting off steamTemirtau 09 - the coking plant letting off steam
  • Temirtau 10 - electric forestTemirtau 10 - electric forest
  • Temirtau 11 - part of one of the largest steel combines in the worldTemirtau 11 - part of one of the largest steel combines in the world
  • Temirtau 12 - metalworkers monument in TemirtauTemirtau 12 - metalworkers monument in Temirtau
  • Temirtau 13 - apparently a very reflective jobTemirtau 13 - apparently a very reflective job
  • Temirtau 14 - Temirtau central town squareTemirtau 14 - Temirtau central town square
  • Temirtau 15 - glamourized metalTemirtau 15 - glamourized metal
  • Temirtau 16 - a real Iron MaidenTemirtau 16 - a real Iron Maiden
  • Temirtau 17 - at duskTemirtau 17 - at dusk


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