This very special day started with a meeting in Taldykorgan with the governor of Almaty region, Mr Amandyk Batalov, who presented the delegation with gifts including a dombra, Kazakhstan’s national musical instrument. Mr Batalov was remarkably well informed about Thomas and Lucy Atkinson and emphasised their importance to the history of Kazakhstan. He told the family members that Kazakhstan’s president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, had taken a personal interest in the story and asked rhetorically if it could be the case that the Atkinson family members were in fact Kazakh citizens, as their ancestor had been born in the country.
After another press conference, the delegation left for Kapal, the town where Alatau Tamchiboulac Atkinson was born on 4 November 1848. This was the culmination of this very special visit to Kazakhstan and it did not disappoint. The family members were greeted by musicians and singers dressed in national costume, before a magnificent 2-metre granite memorial was unveiled to much applause from the large crowd. After a visit to the Tamchiboulac Spring itself, a pageant recreating the events leading up to Alatau’s birth was enacted by a large number of actors, musicians and dancers. The pictures speak for themselves.
The memorial states: “Alatau Tamchiboulac Atkinson, the son of Thomas and Lucy Atkinson, who were the first British explorers to come to Kazakhstan in the 19th century, was born here on 4th November 1848.”
After the pageant, we were all invited to a special meal to celebrate the ‘birth’ of Alatau. It was exactly the kind of meal that Kazakh’s prepare for such a festive occasion.
The meal included sheep’s head and horse meat, along with quails, koumiss, laghman, caviar and dozens of specially prepared dishes. It was accompanied by songs and tunes from local musicians. This extraordinary day will long live in the memory of everyone who was there.
At the end of the day, as the Atkinson descendants prepared to make their way across the steppe to the town of Sarcand, there was a moment or two for them to reflect on a truly amazing experience.