On March 20th, at 8 o, clock in the morning, the huge aircraft landed at Manas airport after the journey of 30 minutes. Kyrgyzstan’s Manas Airline has started its direct flights from Kabul to Bishkek over the last couple of years but this was my first time travelling in a Kyrgyz airline, and I pretty much liked the comfort as well as the hospitality of the staff. The heads of states of Nowruz celebrating countries had already arrived in the capital city of Bishkek. The purpose of my visit was to cover the Grand Nowruz celebrations 2050 along with the 30th anniversary of CASA-1000 (a power project that transfers electricity from Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to Afghanistan and Pakistan). Both of the events were taking place on two consecutive days at two different cities, Bishkek and Osh.
The double-deck aircraft had businessmen, diplomats, tourists, international students, journalists, and people from other professionals. The bilateral relations of Afghanistan with Kyrgyzstan had entered a new phase resulting in the exemption of visas between these two countries. I went straight to the counter where the charming lady immigration officer welcomed me with a smile and stamped my passport to get in. The vast terminal crowded with passengers entering and leaving the country was equipped with modern facilities. The temperature inside the terminal was warmer while Ala Too mountains around Bishkek were still white covered with snow. There were different computer machines and digital screens doing various tasks like updating the flight schedules, issuing receipts for choosing the mode of transportation to the center of the city, changing foreign currencies etc. One of the screens revealed that 1 US Doller was exchanged for 1.25 Kyrgyz Som, thanks to tourism and trade (energy, minerals and organic agricultural products) as the main factors behind this economic growth. Moreover, unlike West, despite technological advancement, Kyrgyzstan restrained itself from the robots; that was the reason that robots did not replace humans.
I checked my name on the screen that a flying car No.996 was waiting for me in the parking area. The flying car had been newly introduced in the country and its usage was not common with some exceptions, and I was enjoying that luxury.
Outside the airport, there was no push and pull of taxi drivers to get the passenger boarded in their taxis. Passengers had already chosen their mode of transportation having the receipts from the terminal. Besides taxis, metro train and electric buses were also taking passengers from the airport to the city center and its adjacent areas.
After sitting in the car, the driver welcomed me and flew the car.
“Sir, I hope you had a comfortable journey.”
“Yes, I had a good journey, thanks.”
After exchanging some words, I came to know that he was not only an informative person but he also spoke fluent English.
“You speak good English,” I asked surprisingly.
“Thank you Sir. Now many people like me in my country know foreign languages because of the tourists from all over the world visiting our country. Over the past couple of years, millions of tourists visited our country. This year it ranked 3rd most favorite destination among the tourists. Our country earns a lot of revenue from tourism.”
Meanwhile, he drew my attention to a 3-D book with moving photos. “I have read your book In the Land of the Tian Shan Mountains. This is one of the great books written on my country. It not only reflected our true image but also helped people from different parts of the world to know about Kyrgyzstan.” I was in the seventh heaven when he put forward the book for my signature. I made a digital signature for him, thanked him and entered into the hotel.
A room on the 50th floor was reserved for me at a seven stars hotel by the name of a famous Kyrgyz writer, Chingiz Aitmatov. This hotel was also equipped with modern technology. At the reception, my thumb prints and voice frequency were taken to work for different functions like opening and closing the room’s door, switching on the light, television, locker etc. After putting my luggage, I went to the mini-swimming pool attached to the room and besides relaxing in the water; I watched the tour of Issyk Kul Lake, world’s second largest alpine lake. The new information I got was that a fun city had opened for tourists inside the lake with restaurants, cafés, and amusement parks for children. After bathing, a briefing session together with lunch was arranged by the organizer about the events’ activities. I attended that session, and then went out to see the city.
The skyscrapers, double-storey roads and metro trains had completely changed the look of the city. Walking in the downtown, there were digital screens at different locations showing the achievements of their female President. Later I realized that she was very popular among the people because of her achievements in the spheres of human rights, economic development and rule of law. Located in the north of the country, the greenest city of Central Asia has been everybody’s favorite as it had opened its lap to everybody and that is the reason that it hosts different ethnicities, religions, and cultures giving it an international look. In the big shopping malls, one could buy branded along with the traditional Kyrgyz goods. Moreover, Macdonald, KFC, Starbucks, and King Burger were crowded with customers mostly students and office workers, and it reminded me the Kyrgyz version of KFC (Kyrgyz Fried Chicken) and King Burger (the two words were replaced giving it the look of real Burger King) where local burgers and food were served more than three decades ago. I went to the main Ala Too square where the legendry hero Manas was sitting proud on his horse with a sword in his hand and a big screen was showing an animated movie about the short history of Kyrgyzstan with tourists gathered to enrich their knowledge. I also visited my alma mater, the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) Academy which had become one of the top research and academic institution in the world producing top regional think tanks. After spending a busy day refreshing my youth days’ memories, l returned to the hotel and started preparing for the conference the next day.
The Grand Nowruz event 2050 was arranged at the national park of Ala Archa, located at a distance of about 40 km from Bishkek. Early in the morning, the delegates of the event were carried in metro train. There were diplomats, representatives of international organization, and members of Nowruz celebrating countries. The place for event was arranged in an open area surrounded by mountains, and the splashing sound of the river was energizing the soul. Presidents and Prime Ministers of Nowruz Celebrating Countries delivered their speeches highlighting the importance of regional cooperation, cultural relationships, religious tolerance and multiculturalism. Little Kyrgyz girls smoked the juniper plant around the heads of the states and removed the evil spirits for the coming year. Thereafter, performers of different countries entertained the participants with traditional dances. Every face was happy as they were somewhere inhaling the purest air while most parts of the world are facing extreme level of pollution. The clean air of the country is also one among the reasons that tourists visit to heal themselves from different diseases. For the lunch, various traditional foods from different countries were served on a long table with a moving train on it. After the lunch, the delegates enjoyed trekking in the nearby mountains as it was part of the program under the slogan “Grow Trees and Breathe Clean Air”. There was also a film crew from Hollywood shooting a movie. Because of the natural beauty, Kyrgyzstan has also attracted the attention of international movie makers. At the end of the day, the delegates left for the southern city Osh where the 30th anniversary of CASA-1000 had to begin the next day.
The bullet train took one hour to reach Osh. In the past, Osh city was one of the main cities of Ferghana valley and an important trade market along the Silk Road. Currently it is reviving its old geo-strategic position functioning as a significant energy trade hub between Central Asia and South Asia. On the way, I was seeing many huge solar and wind power plants which not only met the domestic needs but also exported electricity to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Kyrgyzstan also made its place among the top 10 environment friendly countries using entirely renewable energy. In agriculture sector, the country not only increased its production but had also maintained the originality of its agricultural products. That was the reason that the demand for its agricultural products was very high.
The event was arranged on top of Sulayman Mountain, one of the sacred mountains of Kyrgyzstan. CASA-1000 was the theme of the gathering. The project not only completed its 30 years of journey but there was also agreement on proposing the extension of the project to 30 more years with the inclusion of India. Furthermore, the energy experts also gave green signals of more electricity generation through solar and wind energy along with the hydro power to be exported to other South Asian countries.
Kyrgyzstan has progressed a lot over the past three decades. Sustained democracy, gender equality, religious tolerance, minimal crime rate, cultural diversity, tourism, and energy trade are some of the areas giving Kyrgyzstan the title of the most peaceful country.
WWW.OCAMAGAZINE.COM OCA#31 SPRING 2019 Text by Mohammad Idrees