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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
Fun! For children and
adults alike yurt camping is a real break from the usual holiday
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.