Discovery Kyrgyzstan
 
Discovery Kyrgyzstan travel guide #10/2008
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Kyrgyz yourta as a masterpiece of folk creation

Kyrgyz yourta as a masterpiece of folk creationKyrgyz people who inhabit the mountainous massifs of the Tien-Shan and the Eastern Pamirs, lead a kind of vertical nomad's life: they spend the winter in the valleys and summer time in alpine meadows of high mountains. The yurt, a transportable dwelling that is easily dismantled, carried on pack animals and set up again, is ideally suited to the main principle of a nomad's life "I carry all my things with me". Originating from ancient Turkic tribes, the yurt was perfected over many centuries and remains almost unchanged today.

The yurt consists of a wooden construction and felt cover. Latticed sliding walls (kerege) consist of separate links. They define the size of the yurt. From the external side the kerege are covered with mats made of chee grass. These let the air into the dwelling and at the same time protect it from wind and dust. The spherical roof of the yurt is made of poles (uuk) cut to a point and bent on one side. On the side where the bend is, they are fixed in the upper part of the wall, and on the other side they are set in tunduk, the wooden circle at the top of the yurt (incidentally the national flag of independent Kyrgyzstan is decorated with a tunduk at its center). The yurt is made of willow and only the tunduk, the hole where smoke goes out of the yurt, is made from more solid kinds of wood (birch, juniper).

The yurt is covered with felts of different types, tunduk jabuu, tuunduk, uzuktor. The felt cover is connected to its frame by narrow woven and leather stripes. The cover of the tunduk is moveable and the smoke hole is easily opened in the morning and closed in the night with help of long lassos. The doorway is covered with felt or a woven ornamented curtain. The internal and external sides of the yurt are richly decorated with different ornamented items made of felt, applications, braided patterned fringes, multicolored tassels (chachyk) and patterned braids (terenchek boo).

Kyrgyz yourta as a masterpiece of folk creationThe right side of the yurt was considered the women's part (epchi jak). Here colored bags with felt applications, clothes, headdresses, jewelry, needlework and pottery were kept. The place for food was separated by a screen made from an ornamented mat (chygdak). The left side was for men (er jak), where the best clothes and headdresses of men would hang, while closer to the entrance was the harness. The place opposite the entrance was considered honorary (tor). At this part of the wall was the row of trunks where rarely used patterned carpets were laid. The more carpets, the richer the yurt residents. On the floor of the yurt were only the best carpets, ala-kiyiz, then shyrdak, and on them narrow quilts (toshok) or fur lays, koldolosh. The tor was the center of the yurt. It was the place for the most honored guests. Before guests sat down a kind of tablecloth (dostarkhan) was placed there. In the middle of the yurt was the fire where they cooked their meals, know as kolomto. Rich people cooked their dishes in special yurts, ashkana. Poor people lived in small smoky yurts (boz ui, kara ui), where they kept not only their utilities (beds, pottery), but in the cold time of the year also new born calves and lambs.

Inside yurts people are always surrounded by comfortable carpets, woven and embroidered covers, blankets and pillows and other utilities often made by the mistress herself. Materials she requires are felt, fleecy cloths, fur, textile, chiy grass, and the main graphic is color and ornament. The color of Kyrgyz traditional cloths, carpets and embroideries is saturated and cheerful. It is composed of strong, contrasting colors, with warm colors, reds and browns, prevailing. In the past masters used natural colors. The ornament has its origins in the distant Bronze Age, but was gradually improved and expanded. Its elements were taken from the flora and fauna that surrounded the nomadic people. The main motif of Kyrgyz ornament was the curl (kochkor - stylized ram's horn). A sinuous line with rhythmically placed curls is named kyal, 'dream1, or 'fantasy'. It also resembles the branch of a flourishing tree.

Kyrgyz yourta as a masterpiece of folk creationKyrgyz carpets - kiyiz and shyrdak - are made of warm felt and are always richly decorated with ornament. The shyrdak is made with help of a mosaic technique of application, based on closing of felt blanks with multicolored threads. The ala-kiyiz is made by ramming, rolling the different-colored fur into the friable felt basis. The first gives a cleanness of line, the second a fuzziness. This 'color running' gives the effect of abruptness and gives ala-kiyiz their soft, watercolor effect.

The yurt is probably the most practical temporary dwelling available, being:

  • Portable, for example, a nine foot yurt will fit in the back of the smallest car, and can be carried in a wheelbarrow. Secure, the yurt can be fitted with a lockable wooden door. Entry cannot be gained even if the canvas is cut.

  • Weather proof, the yurt has proven itself in the harsh climate of Central Asia for centuries.
  • Warm in winter, being circular, with a relatively low roof it is easy to heat. Insulating layers can be sandwiched between the frame and the cover.
  • Cool in summer, as the sides can be rolled up or removed to admit a cooling breeze. Hot air rises out through the open tunduk, and cool air is drawn in.
  • Inconspicuous; despite having ample headroom, the overall height of the structure is low, allowing it to be easily screened from unwanted attention.
  • Easy to erect; with a little practice the yurt can be erected or taken down in less than thirty minutes, even by one person.
  • Easy to move; if you have pitched your yurt in the wrong place, you can, with the help of a few friends, pick up the entire yurt and move it without any need to take it down and re-erect it.
  • Environmentally friendly; coppicing of hazel, ash and willow to provide poles is good for the tree and woodland wildlife. All timber is from the local community forest. The yurt is a low impact dwelling, causing no permanent damage to the land on which it is pitched. It can even be moved every few days to prevent the grass from being killed.
  • Long lasting; the yurt can stand outside for several years without harm, if used occasionally it should last indefinitely. In Mongolia the frame is expected to last a lifetime.
  • Fun! For children and adults alike yurt camping is a real break from the usual holiday accommodation.

For now every tourist coming to Kyrgyzstan in summer time has an unique opportunity to spend nights in real Kyrgyz yurts in special yurt camp sites at Djety-Oguz canyon, Song-Kul Lake, Issyk-Kul Lake, Tash-Rabat caravanserai and others beautiful places of Kyrgyzstan.

Discovery Kyrgyzstan #7

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