Sacha Baron Cohen would have had a field day if he had access to the State Department cables made public by Wikileaks. After all, the truth of Kazakhstan and its leaders’ propensity for drink and lavish spending is altogether more ridiculous than the Borat movie.
Take for example, concerts. According to a Guardian posting of related cables, the son-in-law of the Kazakh president threw himself a 41st birthday party headlined by Elton John, and his wife may have gotten to take a personal concert with Nelly Furtado. The oligarchical family also got to give away villas in Turkey as gifts to friends.
One of the best parts was the following, “The UAE Ambassador told State Department officials that [Kazakh President] Nazarbayev had traded property in Borovoe — a mountainous resort area of Kazakhstan north of Astana and sometimes likened to Switzerland — for a “palace” in the Emirates.”
In fact, many State Department officials seem to be shocked that people in Central Asia might like alcohol, even if they hold high office positions. They were shocked that one Defense Ministry showed up drunk to a meeting with high level American officials.
What comes across most strongly in some of these cables is that a lack of cultural understanding and childish complaints seem to be endemic. While travelers may not be used to the culture of a new country, making a conscious effort to learning things could put them in better stead than the problems the State Department now faces.
[Image: Jibegod via Wikimedia]