ASTANA – Has the Internet become so dominant that face-to-face communication needs a comeback movement? The “anti-café” movement that has now reached Astana certainly suggests as much.
Anti-cafés are a new type of guesthouse designed for cultural activities, meetings and leisure or work. They have gained popularity in the CIS countries over the last two years. Unlike at ordinary cafés, guests at anti-cafés don’t pay for food and drinks, but for the time they spend there. People gather at anti-cafés to enjoy socialising with the old and new friends or to enjoy some solitude and a new book.
The first anti-café in Astana, Just a Moment, opened in 2012 and for the last six months has been a fashionable, popular venue for Astana’s youth. Just a Moment has cozy sofas, tea with cookies, a small screen with a projector, Wi-Fi, a small kitchen for self-catering, board games and other amenities for guests who want to hang out. At present, young professionals don’t need to pay to meet interesting people, drop by a social event or organise a presentation. Anyone is welcome to gather a group for a cup of tea; guests can bring food, play games on the X-box or watch and discuss a movie. Children are welcome—there are options for guests of all ages. Just a Moment also has an open art area where thematic evenings, seminars, workshops and exhibitions are held regularly. The anti-café is open to creativity and new ideas: anyone can offer a suggestions for a programme.Regular events at Just a Moment include the Anti-Popcorn Cinema Club, which takes place every Thursday and airs films during which there are no distractions—not even popcorn. The speed-dating organisations Love is Sought and Sweet Sunday regularly facilitate romance. Recently, Just a Moment celebrated the national holiday Nauryz. It organised a feast and prepared the traditional drink nauryz-kozhe. Guests also brought their own dishes and treated each other to those.
Clients at Just a Moment rent the space to host a variety of events. Famous people sometimes attend, as when the Global Shapers Community invited Kenneth Alibek to discuss microbiology and immunology in everyday life.Another meeting point in Almaty and Astana is the café franchise Marrone Rosso, one of the most popular venues for young professionals and residents looking for great locations and gourmet coffee. The cafés attract dozens if not hundreds of people for lunch, which is not always a break from work but frequently an opportunity to continue discussing projects.“It is great to have places where you feel comfortable not only meeting with friends but with business partners and colleagues to discuss work issues. The atmosphere makes you feel relaxed and facilitates talks and relationships with partners,” says Assel Zhanatkanova, a head of department in one of the central banks.Marrone Rosso is also beloved by expats and guests of the city because of the people-watching it affords over Astana’s main alley.
“I like the place because of the location and atmosphere; you can easily sit next to a stranger if there are no free tables or sit at the bar and talk to the barista. Humans are social creatures and for many it is hard to come somewhere alone, but here you can enjoy your meal while watching what’s happening outside or work on your laptop. Also, for the first time, I’ve seen computer tablets for fast ordering, which also could be used as a way of texting another table, a sort of means of online acquaintance with a person you like,” Kairat Ordabayev, a guest of the café, told The Astana Times.
The appearance of such places as Just a Moment and Marrone Rosso is connected with the developing communication and entertainment culture in Astana. With the growing number of residents and guests of the city, it is necessary to provide diverse services and new opportunities for relaxation. Over time, cafés—and anti-cafés—will create new means of communication and foster creativity.