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Coffee with RUWEIDA SONI

62 years old From Cape Town, South African Ambassador’s wife, a meditation teacher

Everyone around was beautiful in their warm jackets and fur coats. Children wrapped in warm clothes looked so cute, like little Eskimos. And I told my husband that the Kazakhs are a very beautiful nation.


Coffee with RUWEIDA SONI



We’ve been living in Astana for four years. We moved here from sunny and hot South Africa. Initially, the city seemed small. The airport affected my first impression of the whole city.

When we left the airport, everything was covered white, and it was 37 degrees below zero. I was amazed and wondered: "How do people live here?"

But then I saw people walking along the streets, and thought that I could live here too. We stayed in the Rixos Hotel for the next two months. It was comfortable, and we spent most of our time there.

We went shopping to Khan Shatyr to buy outerwear, since our clothes were not suitable for the weather, and it’s +10 degrees in winter in Africa. When we were parking at the mall’s underground parking lot, I felt like dropping into a large freezer. The entrance was filled with steam, as in a horror! It was a little scary, but then the steam dissipated, and we saw an ordinary parking lot.

Once I was in London in the wintertime, it was nothing compared to the winter in Astana. We’ve never been to a city with such weather conditions, with such a low temperature. It was very cold. I was scared to walk, as I could slip and fall. Life continued to go on as usual, we used to go out for a walk, and everyone around was beautiful in their warm jackets and fur coats. Children wrapped in warm clothes looked so cute, like little Eskimos. And I told my husband that the Kazakhs are a very beautiful nation. When summer came we witnessed a completely different picture. All around were dressed in summer clothes, and you could see people’s body.


Everything around was covered with snow and ice, but it was sunny. That was so fascinating! People didn’t look morose, the sky was not cloudy, faces shone with smiles. I liked that. We discovered beautiful futuristic buildings. The capital’s life was in full swing.

I fell in love with the "Baiterek", the embankment and parks

The city is clean, and people are law-abiding and disciplined. Holidays are accompanied by mass festivities. There’s always something special happening.

As for the national cuisine, I tried samsa and vegetable shish kebab. I like baursaks, but didn’t try beshbarmak, since I'm a vegetarian. It was difficult for us to order food in restaurants. The only thing we can order from the menu is pizza, pasta, salad and fries. Local restaurants don’t fully understand the concept of vegetarianism. For example, we can be offered a lentil soup with the broth cooked on meat, and this isn’t a vegetarian cuisine. So, basically, we prefer eating at home.

Kazakh weddings are similar to weddings in my homeland. Many traditions seem familiar to me: celebration and beautiful ceremonies are likely to be similar. All the elderly ladies look like my mother, who lived to be 96 years old. Kazakhstan culture is ancient, and the rites are beautiful. Traditions, national cuisine, clothes, manners were preserved thanks to your president, who promotes and supports culture. After all, if we move away from our culture, we can lose our roots and stability. One of the most adorable traditions is your respectful attitude to the older generation.


I’m engaged in South African culture promotion. We held a cultural event, there we combined an African drum and Kazakh instruments performance. We taught the locals African dances, played the African drums, conducted workshops on wearing African national costumes. Once we conducted a large-scale flash mob that took place in the "Khan Shatyr" shopping center and KazGYU. People danced to the well-known song “Waka Waka”, which was the official anthem of the World Cup-2010 in South Africa. In 2012, my husband founded the Academic Diplomatic Club in KazGYU. This club creates a platform for students to interact with the diplomatic corps.

My life mission is to bring joy. For 19 years I’ve been a full-time teacher of the “Art of Living” Foundation. I teach the art of meditation, yoga, dance and life skills. We also conduct courses in Astana, e.g. “the Happiness” course provides you with the skills to deal with stress. The main tool of this technique is the ability to use breathing in order to eliminate all the stress accumulated over many years. Also, there’s a course called "The Art of Silence". It’s a beautiful, calm, energy-charging technique that turns you into an enthusiastic person. During this course a person shouldn’t communicate with others, read, write, use a mobile phone, and watch TV for two and a half days. You have an amazing feeling while spending time with yourself. It helps better understand yourself from inside, to understand who you really are. Upon completion of the course, you are told to get out of the silence state and start talking, but, in fact, you don’t want to get out of this state, because you are attached to yourself. You become a beautiful and truly best friend who will not let yourself down. And you want to continue staying in silence for as long as possible.


People in Kazakhstan appreciate diversity. For example, when I wear national clothes, many people come up to me and ask to take a picture with them. Sometimes I'm busy, but I try not to refuse people. Kazakhstan people treat us benevolently. They’re friendly, and I'm calm here. I can move around the city freely, knowing that I'm safe. Our embassy and residence have excellent staff, we’re almost a family. I'm already starting to miss them. I don’t want to think about the day when I have to leave Astana. Farewell will be painful for me. I will miss Kazakhstan, as I came here with a feeling of great love for this country.

I like your hymn. I don’t know what it’s said there, but I feel it by my heart

We were fortunate to witness the Expo 2017 construction. That was amazing. I've never seen so many cranes on the construction site. These buildings, in fact, will change the appearance of Astana. My spiritual master Sri Sri Ravi Shankar was struck by the sights, buildings and structures of Astana. He always urges architects to visit Astana.

I would like to express my gratitude to all those who are involved in our stay in Astana. The city will definitely leave delightful memories. I express my gratitude to your WE team for efforts and indifference towards the society. I wish you to get even stronger.

Kazakhstan is a beautiful country and the place where the world secrets are kept