The most popular souvenirs from Central Asia are felt, silk and ceramics handicrafts. Although Kazakhstan also has similar cottage industries, most of the products sold in Almaty come from Kyrgyzstan (felt) and Uzbekistan (silk, ceramics).
In felt, pointy-toed slippers, hats and handbags are currently popular. Ceramics dishes and silk scarfs are perennially and justly popular. More expensive are felt carpets called syrmak in Kazakh (more famously shyrdak in Kyrgyz) or regular carpets (mostly coming from Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan).
What Kazakhs do do very well is wood carving and leather craft. Faithfully reproduced weaponry from ancient times like shields, daggers and flails are not cheap, but do look nice on any wall, and are sure to impress your little nephew. Northern Kazakhstan has some amazing craftspeople, especially wood carvers. Try to find their cups from birch wood – exquisite shape and tone, and no built-in obsolescence!
If you are looking for something cheap yet interesting from the duty-free shop, take home a bottle of kymys (fermented mare milk) and shubat (fermented camel milk). Bring an additional bottle of vodka to dowse the taste and get the party started. If your friends aren’t drinkers, grab some Kazakhstan chocolate. Attractive wrapper, palm oil chocolate.
Where to buy
Every shopping mall in Almaty has at least one souvenir shop. Empire is the most expensive, high quality outlet. Almaly shopping mall underneath Republic Square has an attractive collection of souvenirs in about 5 shops altogether.
The Kasteev museum of Fine Arts and the History Museum both have souvenir shops attached to them as well. On Kok-Tobe hill, you can find some decently-priced souvenirs as well. InterContinental and Hyatt Regency also have souvenir shops, but they are overpriced.
If you are on your way out through Sairan bus station, you can do some great bargains at the military bazaar. Get a complete outfit of the Kazakh army or just a few medals, the choice is yours!