New project of SILK ROAD MEDIA publishing house
100 experiences of Kyrgyzstan photo guide
Experience #1 – AIGUL FLOWER
The proper name for the Aigul Flower is Edward’s Pentilium and they are special in that they grow exclusively in a region around Batken in the south of the country. The only other place where they are found is in the mountains of Afghanistan.
There is a legend that tells of a Khan who ruled an area where the paths of the Silk Road crossed.His only daughter, Aigul, loved the commander of the Khan’s army, Kozulan, who perished whilst fighting invaders. His soldiers brought her his heart and, grieving, she buried it before throwing herself off the top of a mountain. Where the drops of her blood fell, beautiful flowers grew and blossomed – these wereAiguil’s flowers.
It takes several years for the plant to mature before flowers appear on the thin stem, (usually in late April and early May – around the time of the full moon). In the first year there is only a single flower that blooms; a year later two flowers bloom; after another year, three. According to local people, examples of this “lunar flower” consisting of thirty flowers on one stem have been seen.
Experience #27 – Felt
Felt is a traditional material used by Kyrgyz craftsmen and women over the centuries.There are many stories about its origins, for example, telling of travellers putting wool into their shoes and then, at the end of their journey, discovering that the woolen fibres had matted together into a single sheet fabric.
In a time honoured process that has changed little over the centuries, (if at all), raw wool is washed and brushed clean before being laid out on a mat made from long straws of Chiy grass, which is then soaked and rolled up into a cylinder and tied to keep it firm. The whole family will gather and help as the roulette is then rolled, pressed, kicked and dragged behind a horse until the fibres are compressed and packed together into a single sheet.
The wool can be dyed in different colours, and combined to make patterns as in the traditional Ala Kiyiz carpets. Sheets of coloured felt can also be cut into shapes which are then stitched together as seen in the traditional shyrdak.
Experience #52 – Kyrgyz music
Music has always played an important role in the traditional nomadic lifestyle of the Kyrgyz. Music making was not a “spectator sport,” almost everyone in a family group would play an instrument or sing.
Instruments (like the Komuz – a three stringed type of lute which is often used as a Kyrgyz national symbol; the temirkomuz – often called a jaws harp; or the chopochoor, (a clay pipe)), were simple, being made from natural materials readily available and easy to transport, but can be remarkably versatile in the range of sounds produced.
There are traditional songs for every occasion: love songs, ballads, work songs, lullabies, celebratory songs and ritual music. Special reverence used to be given to the Akyn, a sort of traveling minstrel, skilled in improvisation who would also be assured of a warm welcome wherever they went.
Experience #66 – Petroglyph
The word Petroglyph comes from the Greek petra = “stone” and glyphe = “to draw”. It is used to describe pictures drawn or etched onto stones. These drawings, left behind on high rocks and in deep caves can provide evidence of the way of life and the environment of times gone by when there was no formal system of writing. Some of them are over 2000 years old and depict animals, agricultural activities, traditional ritual dances as well as symbolic representations of the sun.
There are many examples of petroglyphs found throughout Kyrgyzstan – most notably at Cholpon Ata and SaimaluuTash.
Experience #90 – Victory Peak
Victory Peak, (Peak Pobeda in Russian and JengishChokusu in Kyrgyz), is one of three 7000-plus metre giants in Kyrgyzstan. At 7439 metres, it is the highest mountain in the Tien Shan range, which straddles Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and North-western China.
Covered by huge masses of ice and snow, weather conditions can make ascents difficult as persistent, strong, cold winds (called the “Thousand Devils”) can whip up snowstorms – and have been known to rip tents to shreds. The peak is often obscured by clouds and, over the years, has often been confused with its neighbour, Khan Tengri – from which it is separated by the Enilchek glacier
The first attempt to ascend to the summit of the mountain was made in 1938 by a team of mountaineers, but it is not clear if they actually succeeded. They named it “Peak of 20 years of Komsomol” – in honour of the Communist youth movement.
Experience #95 – Yurt
The yurt is still in use by people throughout the region and plays an important role in the lifestyle of the Kyrgyz “chaban”, or shepherd, and although styles of architecture and city planning come and go, the yurt remains a stable and lasting link with the past.
Although most Kyrgyz now live in high-rise apartment blocks, they have a special affection for the yurt. Often, on the occasion of a birthday a yurt will be set up and guests invited to the “dastarkhan” – a “holiday table”. The yurt is also a place where the Kyrgyz gather for the funeral of their relatives.