One thing that I’ve been asked by several people (and had wondered myself before Googling or ever meeting Kazakhs) is “What do they look like?” I’ve found that a hard question to answer. It would be like asking “What do Americans look like?” — well, there are Asian Americans, African Americans, Latin Americans, European Americans, etc., you get the point. Though ethnic Kazakhs look “Asian” in a generic sense, I saw many beautiful nuances among the local people. Light hair, dark hair, light eyes, dark eyes, round eyes, almond-shaped eyes, tall, short, big, small. The diversity among ethnic Kazakhs was really intriguing.
I wish I could have taken photos of all the beautiful, interesting people I saw during my time there. As I’ve mentioned before, the traits that struck me as the most stunning have been those with light coloring along with “typical” East Asian features. I had heard from several locals that the “original” Kazakhs had red hair and light eyes, but due to the conquering of the area by Mongols, their features became more Asian (don’t quote me on this, I’m just repeating what I was told). Red hair?! I could not believe it until I saw it with my own eyes. I was in a car and as we slowly drove past a mini-mart, there was a young man with bright red hair and Asian features; a “ginger” if you will. He looked so interesting that I did a double take just to confirm what I was seeing. Yes, an Asian ginger! I did not take a picture, but I’ve found some photos of people with similar characteristics.
Another trait that never ceased to shock me was that of having light colored eyes. I am so used to seeing East Asians who have dark hair and dark eyes, so when I saw people with light and dark brown hair AND honey, hazel, blue, and green eyes, I was captivated. It sounds so unnatural to me but it looks much more natural than say, my Chinese mother wearing green contacts and dying her hair light brown. My friend Aizhan has blue-green-brown eyes that are striking against her dark hair and light skin (unfortunately the pictures I got with her do not show how pretty her eyes are, nor do they show the color). Baurzhan and his brother Chingiz have black hair and dark eyes, whereas his oldest brother, Nurzhan, has noticeably lighter hair, despite having parents with darker features. Bekzhan has light hair and golden honey colored eyes; he looks like a little doll. Had I seen statuesque Madina walking around the streets of Paris during her studies there, I would have assumed she was a half-Japanese half-European model. People walking around with naturally light brown/blonde hair and Asian features always got my attention. I live in one of the most diverse cities in the world, and the mixture and variety of people here is second to none, yet I hardly do as many double takes in New York as I did in Kazakhstan. Prior to this trip, I’d just never seen people with these traits.
Many other Central Asians also appear to have mixed ancestry, including Uyghurs, Mongolians, etc. Even the Hazara people of Afghanistan, though Persian speaking, have Mongolian lineage, and also appear mixed. I’ve just thrown together some photos of people I met in Kazakhstan and some images I’ve found Googling around just to show the interesting physical features of Central Asians.