The fascinating part of traveling in Kyrgyzstan is meeting the remaining nomads and discovering how they live. We met many of them and learned about their yurts, their animals and their clothing. They opened their yurts and their heart with opened arms happy to show their way of living.
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The Kyrgyz Nomadic culture
The Kyrgyz people originated in Siberia / Mongolia and traveled to the area of Kyrgyzstan due to territory conflicts.
The Kyrgyz Nomad are cattle-breeders who live in yurts and move their animals to different camps in the mountains depending n the season. In Summer, they will settle in high altitude, for example around Song-Kul lake, and in Winter they will go down in the valleys to get some protection.
The icon of the Kyrgyz nomadic culture is the yurt, a small wooden dwelling decorated with felt carpets. There are still many yurt makers in Kyrgyzstan. In the next section you will discover their art.
The wealth of a Kyrgyz nomad is based on the number of his animals, especially horses which are at the center of their culture.
Not far from Issyk-Kul, we entered the village of Kyzyl-Tuu where 50 traditional yurt makers live and practice their art.
Turusbek is from a long line of yurt-maker, and had been doing it himself for 20 years. He proudly creates 5 to 6 yurts a year depending on their sizes, some even going to foreigners. His Russian was basic but our guide Masha still managed to explain to us the process:
The wood is collected in Winter and left to dry.
It is then warmed via steam to bend it. 20 pieces are placed in the tube for half an hour, and then one by one the maker bend them against mapple wood. After that he cleans the piece so that the wood is smooth and sometimes use a special tool to decorate the wood.
For the big circle peace the wood is bended against a round wall heated with some kind of a stove.
Red is the color of protection and beauty and one of the easiest dye to find, so many insides of yurts are predominantly red. The yurt maker uses knots of cow skins to create patterns and attachthe panels together for easy assembly.
Most yurts are 5 meters in diameter. The biggest one he had ever made was 10 meters in diameter for a special ceremony (a wedding if I recall correctly).
Nowadays the many parts of the Kyrgyz yurt are transported by trucks and not the animals. It has kind of an IKEA feel to it but without the schematics 🙂 Don't you think?
It takes 1 to 4 hours for experienced Kyrgyz people to assemble a yurt. Here is a picture with one yurt with just the wooden frame and the other one covered with the felt carpets. As you can see, they also set up a stove inside.
Inside the yurts, colorful felt carpets are attached to the wood with leather creating a warm environement.
The Kyrgyz men are in charge of taking care of the animals. They mostly own horses, sheeps, cows and goats. Boys learn very early to take care of the cattle.
The animals have I seen eveywhere were in very good health. They really take care of them.
Some of them also use eagle for hunting. However I have not seen it as there are restrictions when young animals are born in June.
Typical Kyrgyz head pieces
The Kyrgyz culture is very colorful. Women wear beautiful scarves on their head often with flowers. They also wear embroidery on their dresses.
The traditional headpeace Kolpok or Kalpak has many different shapes but are mostly high and with a curved lower section, sometimes opened in the front.
The young generation wears a modern version of it...
Western style clothes have taken over, but the hat remains
Want to see more of Kyrgyzstan's beauty?
Discover more planning information, things to do and places to see in my online Kyrgyzstan Travel Guide.
Have you ever met a nomad tribe?