Altyn Emel is a National Park in Kazakhstan. The park is located about 200 kilometers outside Almaty and is about 4600 square kilometers in size. There is a diversity of attractions at the park however, the “singing sand dunes” are the main destination. They do in fact “sing”, however the sand dunes are also scenically spectacular.
Kalkan Wind Shields at Singing Dunes
There are 4 sand dunes, they are 4 kilometers long and 150 meters in height. Additionally, singing dunes Kazakhstan have remained structured in a straight line for millennia. How is this possible?
Basically, the wind only blows in 2 directions which are opposite of each other. Additionally, the Big and little Kalkan (shields) act as deflectors and keep the sand uniform. Otherwise, the singing dunes Kazakhstan would disperse and they would have disappeared long ago. The shields are 2 sandstone hills which are 150 meters high and 4 kilometers long.
Why do the Singing Dunes in Kazakhstan Sing?
- All the sand grains are round and between .1 and .5 mm in diameter.
- The weather is very dry.
- The sand contains silica.
If all the conditions are in order, then the sand will emit a deep humming or rumbling sound. However, sometimes it can sound like booming or roaring. A unique vibration creates the noise when the sand grains rub against each other and also come into contact with the dry air. As a result, they become electrified and it causes them to vibrate.
However, the sand must flow properly down the slope. As a result, once in motion properly the vibration becomes very audible. Simply jumping or pushing the sound down the hill is not adequate. Listen to the Altyn Emel sands sing in this HD video.
Ancient Superstition at Altyn Emel
Superstition has surrounded the singing dunes Kazakhstan since they were first discovered by the ancient nomads. As a result, different explanations have developed over time for this natural singing phenomenon. Some of the ancients believed the humming sound comes from spirits or imaginary animals. However, others think it sounds like the bells of ancient cities or underground rivers.
Legend of Genghis Khan in Kazakhstan
The Mongol hordes invaded Kazakhstan many centuries ago from the neighboring Mongolian steppe. Indeed, the voracious appetites of the Mongol warriors needed to be satisfied. According to local legend, these 3 menhir stones were used as supports for a giant cooking pot. The cooking pot was very large and could boil an entire horse at one time.
Additional Photos from Altyn Emel Singing Sands
Unfortunately, navigation through Kazakhstan is obscure. Therefore, I acquired a good local guide in Almaty to take me to Altyn Emel National Park and this turned out to be a wise decision. He was also a great photographer and historian.
After returning to Almaty my guide gave me a disc containing his photos from our trip to singing dunes Kazakhstan. Therefore, I have posted a few of them below.