Kyrgyzstan

About Kyrgyzstan

The land of grand mountain landscapes, verdant hillsides, idyllic mountain lakes Kyrgyzstan is considered as the Switzerland of Central Asia. Such splendors as Issyk-Kul and Son-Kul Lakes, Jeti Oguz  and Barskoön Gorges, natural hot springs and yurt(traditional tents) stays and open hearted local people will surely  make you want to stay here longer. Kyrgyzstan is the best spot for hikers and climbers as well.

Quick Kyrgyzstan facts

 Area

 199, 951.sq km.

 Capital

 Bishkek

 Time:

 GMT + 6:00. (Almaty,Novosibirsk)

 Country Code:

 +996.

 Languages:

 Kyrgyz, Uzbek, Russian, Uygur, Tajik.

  Currency SOM (KGS)

  US$1 =  70 soms (March,2017).                                  

 Population

  5,8 million (52.4 ), ().

 Phrases

 Hello (Salamatsyzdarby); Thank you (rakhmat, chong rakhmat), good bye ( Kosh bolunguzdar).

 Ethnic Groups:

 71% Kyrgyz, 14 Uzbek%, Russian 9% Russian and 6% others.

Customs and Traditions

The Kyrgyz are descendents of ancient Turkic tribes who originated in the Yenisey river valley of Southern Siberia along the banks of the Yenisey river but forced to abandon their pasturelands as a result of the pressure from warlike Mongol tribes.

Approximately, in the 8th century they settled down in the mountainous regions of modern Kyrgyzstan. They have been nomadic cattle breeders for centuries and a large part of the population still remains semi-nomadic. The Kyrgyz people believe that their name means kirkkyz,(forty girls), and that they are descended from forty tribes. Nowadays, the majority of Kyrgyz people live in Kyrgyzstan, but there are large populations living in China, Afghanistan Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.

        

Public Art

Some of the best examples of public art one can spot in the beautifully decorated yurt, traditional Kyrgyz dwelling called boz-ui. The boz-ui is an important cultural symbol, as both the center of the Kyrgyz family and the showplace of Kyrgyz art.

Inside the boz-ui are hung all the forms of Kyrgyz craftsmanship, including rugs called shirdaks. They are made of brightly colored appliquéd wool felt, with stylized nature motifs that have been passed down for generations. These motifs are also often used for borders and decorations on public art.

The Kyrgyz public art is full of symbolism which is embodied in the form of statues, murals, roadside plaques, and building decorations. The Kyrgyz flag is one of its reflections. On a red field a yellow sun is centered with forty rays coming from it. In the center of the sun is a tunduk, the top of the boz-ui, which symbolizes the unity of a family.
 

Kyrgyzstan Weddings

The Kyrgyz wedding ceremony involves several procedures. "Bride kidnapping" has been practiced by nomadic tribes for centuries In Kyrgyzstan, but now it is prohibited by law. Of course, now some of these abductions are staged, either for romantic reasons or by couples who would otherwise face family opposition. The majority of Kyrgyz weddings, however, takes place through matchmaking arrangements between the parents of the bride and groom.

The important part of the wedding is taking the bride from her parents’ house to the groom’s house to become a member of her future husband’s family. In old times, most girls married men from other tribes and lived far away. They couldn’t see their own family for long periods. Therefore leaving her parents’ house is a very exciting, significant and touching and sad moment for the bride and her family. For this ceremony the traditional yurt is set up on the courtyard, in which bride’s aunts prepare the girl for the wedding. They unbraid her forty braids (kïrk chach), which are traditionally worn by unmarried Kyrgyz girls, and braid her hair into two braids.Then, they help the bride to put on her wedding dress and decorations. The bride puts on her traditional wedding dress and a shökülö, a cone shaped headdress with a veil on top. Throughout the process they sang traditional wedding songs to the bride before she left for her husband’s. The groom in a white suit with elements of traditional costume and kalpak, a traditional hat made out of wool, and arrives at the bride’s house with his friends in a procession of well decorated cars. One of the traditions involved is that bride and groom play on selkinchek, traditional swings, while singers sing traditional wedding songs to them. The bride’s colorful dowry, which consist of hand-made traditional felts, rugs, blankets, cushions, pillows and clothes, follow her to her future husband’s house. Some time before the wedding most couples conduct nikkah kyiuu, which is muslim legalization of the marriage. Only after that the marriage registration takes place.

Before the civil registration the bride and groom and the younger generation; their sisters and brothers, friends and younger members of family drive around the city. Their route consists of certain famous sites, where couple and their guests stop to take pictures, drink champagne and say toasts. Next the newlywed couple and their guests arrive into the Wedding House, where the registration of marriage is conducted. After the registration all guests go to the restaurant, where celebration takes place. The celebration contains includes a lot of food, and drinks, people saying wishes, relatives exchanging gifts, singing and dancing.

 

Other traditions involved incorporated into the wedding were : kalïng, paying of the bride price by the groom’s parents; slaughtering of a horse for the feast; kiyit kiygizüü, a gift exchange (mostly clothes from head to toe) between the in-laws; öpkö chaptï, a ritual with a newly slaughtered goat’s raw lung which is used to hit the backs of the bride and the groom who sit back to back; koshok aytuu, singing of the wedding song; sep berüü, giving the bride’s dowry and loading it onto a camel; kïz uzatuu, viewing of the girl/bride; offering of koumiss to the köch, nomadic movement (in our case it was a wedding “köch” or caravan) from pasture to pasture.

The second part of the celebration took place in the groom’s house. The ceremonies practiced are kelin kirgizüü, welcoming the bride to her new home; sep jayuu, displaying her dowry for people to see, nike kïyuu; a Muslim ceremony carried out by a mullah to legalize the marriage between the couple, which is usually followed by toi, a celebration involving music, dancing, singing and saying many blessings from the guests to the newlywed couple.

 

Kyrgyzstan Festivals and Public events

Many visitors who travel to Kyrgyzstan witness intriguing   the traditional nomadic lifestyle of the Kyrgyz shepherds who spend the summer living in yurts in remote jailoos, (high mountain pastures).  Hence, most festivals held in this beautiful country are based on traditional nomadic culture and concentrated on a specific theme: traditional horse games; hunting with eagles; traditional crafts; cuisine and folklore.

Special events like a Mountain Bike Festival and the “Annual Clean-up at Son Kul” are held here.  Many festivals, however, offer the opportunity to leisurely witness and experience many of the various aspects of traditional, nomadic, Kyrgyz culture.  Colorful, eventful and full of fun, festivals are held throughout the year.

Amongst the major festivals held each year are:

The new year Nouruz is celebrated on the vernal equinox in early spring. Bright new clothing is prepared, a multigrain porridge sumolok is served and wishes for peace, prosperity and health are exchanged.

Birds of Prey Festival  is held along with the national Horse and Game Festival in July, where  golden eagles and falcons are on showcase. Falconry has been a Kyrgyz tradition since ancient times and these birds of prey are some of the best hunters.

Horse games: The culture of the horse is omnipresent in the daily life of the Kyrgyz. Horses, along with hunting dogs, have always played a huge role. They are thought of, not only as thoroughbred racers, but also as true assistants in the daily life of the household. The majority of the rural population in the country,  even today, follow a semi-nomadic way of life. Almost everyone, to a man, is able to ride a horse and the numerous types of horse games that have developed over the course of time, give a fine opportunity for them to show their skills, dexterity and fast reactions. 
Traditional horse games which will be featured include: Ulak Tartysh – a team game resembling a cross between polo and rugby, which involves two teams of riders “battling” over a goat's carcass; Kyz Kuumai – where a horseman should catch a horsewoman so that he can receive a kiss as his prize; and Kurosh – wrestling on horseback. In addition there are such games, as Tyiyn Enmei – where the rider tries to pick up a coin from the ground, at full gallop; At Chabysh – straight forward races, and many others. All of these games have arisen as a result of centuries-old traditions and they reflect the vital importance to the Kyrgyz of riding in past times. 
There are several festivals of Horse Games held throughout the year, but the main one is organized especially for the horses of the Kyrgyz breed and is called At Chabysh.  It is held on the first weekend in November, which is the traditional time of year for such festivals, after the shepherds have brought their flocks down from the high mountain pastures, (jailoo).      

 Kyrgyz Kochi Festival - Cuisine and Folklore Festival, which takes place in the Djety-Oguz Gorge, a large variety of traditional dishes from different countries are presented. It is a wonderful opportunity not only to taste the many succulent dishes, but also  to watch as they are prepared. The festival also includes an exhibition of national crafts and felt making, as well as competitions among local folk groups in singing and dancing.

Kyrgyzstan Cuisine

Kyrgyz cuisine is filled with interesting meats and dairy products . Over the centuries, many nations who traveled along the Great Silk Road and passed through or settled in the territory of modern Kyrgyzstan have influenced Kyrgyz cuisine. Nowadays, one can find elements of Centrl Asian or Chinese cuisine in every traditional Kyrgyz dish. These dishes are usually really rich and hearty to warm you up on the mountains and keep you full for a full day of tough work. Like in almost all “Stan” countries, bread is served with every single meal. It is pretty customary, when entering someone’s home or yurt, to be offered bread and tea immediately even if you’re only staying for a few minutes.

Bread comes in all shapes and sizes, from flatbreads to puffy, harder Russian varieties. There will usually be a few different varieties served up at each meal and it is accompanied by a selection of jams, jellies, butters and cream. The visual appeal of dishes is important, and a variety of spices are used for flavor and color.

Like in Kazakhstan, the national dish of Kyrgyzstan is besh-barmak "five fingers" - so-called because it used to be eaten without utensils. It is made with meat - usually mutton or horse and noodles that are boiled in the broth. Another Kyrgyz dish is oromo "filled bag", in which minced meat and vegetables are steamed inside a pocket of soft dough. The most common drink is kumis - fermented mare's milk, and other traditional drinks are made with camel or goat or sheep milk.

Kyrgyzstan National Dress

Practical clothing  is most important in the sharp continental climate and nomadic culture of the Kyrgyz people, where the temperature in the mountains can drop to – 30 C in winter and go up to + 45 in Summer in the plains. Padded layers, the chapan-coats made of sheepskin, silk tunics and felt hats provide warmth and mobility.

The white men’s wool hat called kalpak, is worn everywhere. Made out of four triangles of felt, the bottom can be rolled up to form a brim. It’s certainly a distinctive feature of dress in Kyrgyzstan.

Girls are traditionally dressed in long white dresses with embroidered velvet vests. Heavy skirts  are worn over these in winter. Unmarried girls’ hair is arranged in about forty braids and covered with elaborate headdresses. Their wedding dresses are more elaborate with a cone-shaped hat and veil. After marriage, they braid their hair in two plaits.

Kyrgyzstan Music

The Kyrgyz have been famous for their musical talent since ancient times. Through the oral traditions handed down from generation to generation, these epic and narrative songs have developed over the centuries and they still strong and reflect practically every aspect of the nomadic life. The performers are called “akyns”. The competition between akyns is called “aytish” in which two performers sit several meters apart and duel in sung verse.

They take turns, singing songs and creating a sort of musical dialogue, like a debate. Each one tries to cuie off the other’s words and ideas in a mixture of rhythmic singing, chanting and exclaiming. The winner of the completion is the one considered to have demonstrated most musical skill, rhythm, wisdom and wit. The performers play the musical instrument called the komuz, one of  the national instruments of of the Kyrgyz people. It is a plucked string instrument.

 The most famous Kyrgyz epic is Manas, the thousand-year-old story of a hero who defended his land and his people. It is longer than the Illiad and the Odyssey combined and is a cycle of legends, which recounts the lifestyle of the Kyrgyz people - their customs, traditions, morals, religious rites, knowledge of medicine, and diplomatic relations. There are special performers or “akyns” (traditionally, men) of this epic called Manaschi. They hold a special place of respect in Kyrgyz culture. While narrating the story,they use dramatic gestures, changes in tone and facial expressions as and integral part of their performance.

Kyrgyzstan Bazaars

In Bishkek, you can visit the Osh Bazaar, the most vibrant and fascinating place to immerse yourself in the local culture. This, the city's most popular market, has everything you can possibly find in Kyrgyzstan, including Moorish sweets and beautiful fabrics.

The Dordoy Bazaar, on the outskirts of Bishkek, stretches for more than a kilometer, and is a major shopping center. It is also the main outlet for imported goods from China and Europe.

The Karakol market, open on Sundays only, is the most famous and colorful horse market in Central Asia. Here you will find livestock of all kinds: roly-poly piglets, woolly sheep, and all kinds of cattle. The market includes a section for cars and used car parts, with bits of scrap metal artistically arranged on the ground.



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