Discovery Kyrgyzstan
Discovery Kyrgyzstan travel guide #10/2008

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Festival in Kyrgyzstan

In the middle of September, towards the end of the traditional tourist season, a bus load of tourists from New Zealand drove upto Lake Son Kul in Central Kyrgyzstan and happened upon something which, in their words, "made their trip".
There, on the remote, treeless, mountain plateau, with a backdrop of high mountain peaks and overlooking a serenic lake, they came across a family celebrating a traditional Kyrgyz wedding. Crowds of relatives had gathered for the celebrations. In keeping with the tradition of nomadic hospitality which typifies the Kyrgyz, they welcomed the newcomers and invitited them to participate in the celebrations. A plentiful bounty of food was scattered over several dastorkons "tablecloths" spread on the floor supplemented by the group's packed lunches. An impromptu game of Kok Boru a horse game, like polo, played with the carcass of a goat in place of a ball was underway. Other games followed, such as: At Chabysh (races), Oodarysh (wresting on horseback) and Kyz Kuumai ("Chase the Girl"). All of this was punctuated with music as individuals took up their komuz to perform traditional melodies, or sang traditional songs.
"It was a real, authentic, experience," said one of the tourists. "We were really sorry when it was time to go."
Many of the visitors who travel to Kyrgyzstan are intrigued by the traditional nomadic lifestyle of the Kyrgyz shepherds who spend the summer living in yurts in remote jailoos, (high mountain pastures), and welcome the opportunity to witness such an event. Unfortunately, however. such things cannot be planned as part of a tour package. This group just happened to be lucky enough to be "in the right place at the right time" to parti с pate in the celebrations. It is possible, however, to time a visit to this small Central Asian republic in order to attend one, (or more), of the several festivals that are organized and some tourists do just this. One of the popular guidebooks to the region refers to the Chabana Festival a gathering with horse races and competitions and many tourists ask if it is possible to visit such an event. The festival usually takes place in the autumn after the shepherds bring their flocks down from the jailoo, and the harvest is gathered in. Quite often these events are planned at very short notice but each year a number of festivals are held during the summer. (Although one travel website says that "Kyrgyzstan isn't exactly full of festivals" there were, in fact, over twenty different events in 2006 with a similar number are planned for 2007.)
Most of the festivals concentrate on a specific theme: traditional horse games; hunting with eagles; traditional crafts; cuisine and folklore there is even a Mountian Bike Festival and the "Annual Clean-up at Son Kul". Many festivals, however, offer the opportunity to leisurely witness and experience many of the various aspects of traditional, nomadic, Kyrgyz culture. Although some of these events are organized by tour companies they are not exclusively for tourists. The local character and feel of the event is preserved by the fact that they are equally popular amongst the local population, (after all, the Kyrgyz enjoy a celebration as much as anyone else), and who usually make up the majority of the people attending each festival.

Discovery Kyrgyzstan #8

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