7. KGZ – Osh

Osh!



Featuring…

Anonymous faceless bread companion

view from the beautiful Sulaiman Hill – The Sulayman Mountain, located in the Ferghana Valley, is the only World Heritage Site located entirely in the country of Kyrgyzstan It is located in the city of Osh and was once a major place of worship

​ Osh, the oldest city in the country, marked the midpoint on the ancient Silk Road, that facilitated overland trade between Europe and Asia. Do the head scarves that the Kyrgyz women wear draw from tradition, to indicate relationship status (married), or for religion (majority Muslim) etc? I’m still trying to find out 👀

The women’s dressing consists of a long and wide A-line dress, long and wide trousers paired with a camisole and a special head-dresses (worn according to age groups and relationship status) called ‘Elchek’ ‘Tebetei’ and ‘Shokulo’ .

Some carpets hanging in the sun

“Tension between Osh’s Uzbeks and Kyrgyz is what caused June’s ethnic violence. Though it was said to have been deliberately sparked off by Kyrgyzstan’s ex-President who had been ousted in April’s revolution, the roots of the tension go way further back. None of these countries, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan or Turkmenistan ever existed until Stalin drew them onto the map. The Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, Uzbeks and Turkmen existed as language groups but there was never any sense of nationhood. Stalin created these countries and drew their borders himself, deliberately making sure that each contained sizeable pockets of the other nationalities under his divide and rule policy, the effects of which are still being felt today in Osh. The Tajiks, who never existed as a people or a country, were even harder hit by ethnic violence: Stalin drew a border that created a country uniting dozens of different tribes, clans and language groups and terming them all Tajiks. After the breakup of the Soviet Union ethnic violence erupted… claiming 50,000 lives.”

Man spotted with a kalpak – The kalpak is the “holiest” of national clothing for the Kyrgyz. It has “mysteries” that many say they can feel when they wear it. This ancient style of hat seems to connect the man wearing it with the history of his fathers and the destiny of his people.

Kyrgyz respect their kalpak. According to tradition:

  • You must not kill a man with a kalpak on;
  • Kalpaks should not be put on the ground;
  • Kalpaks are laid next to your head at night, never by your feet.

There are also many sayings connected with the headgear, such as:

  • “If you lose your kalpak you lose your head”;
  • “Don’t trade your kalpak or you’ll trade your mind”;
  • “Wear a kalpak and you won’t get sick, it is warm in winter, cool in summer”

Uzbek skullcap (left) vs Kyrgyz kalpak

I can almost hear the chorus of giggles from the children as they shrieked excitedly with every periodical spurt of the droplets glistening in the sunshine

can’t remember the name of this, but it’s a typical local pastry, crispy on the outside like a currypuff filled with meat / potatoes inside. yummyyyy (but oily)

I love the tea culture there and drinking tea every meal

This is a beautiful place, photos do not do it justice. One may also find ancient cave carvings / petroglyphs

And only about 20 mins drive from the main city.

This is one of my favourite, favourite chill-out place. 1. The night with Kamila with the soft blankets and pillows, and 2. THIS – the swings, the chairs, the music. Such a great place with its ambience. I would love to set up a place like that. I told cz: If I could bring someone on a first date, this would be the perfect place. What about in Singapore?? Can I think of a place as apt?

WHAT’S THE NAME OF THIS PLACE???? I have forgotten :O :O Trying to find out now
The day next we’ll start on the Pamir highway!

 

See you again Kyrgyzstan! I think to myself as I bit into the cherry, savouring its bursting sweetness in my mouth. I want to save some for later but I can’t stop. It’s a beautiful sunny day. ☀️ I catch a tiny green worm-looking thing moving on the cherry. I stopped eating after.

 

Bye Osh!

 

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6. KGZ – Arslanbob – Hike to the Holy Rock!

 

Arslanbob, the largest walnut forest in the world.
It’s not the season for the harvesting of walnuts, unfortunately. Nonetheless, we were determined to find its traces before we left.

Fresh air!

At the CBT office, we took a close look at the tourist map:

We aimed to approach the Holy Rock, that little dot along the contours of the hill.
Little did we know how hard it was to identify the rock in the actual landscape. The ominous dark clouds gathered….
Warning sign: dark clouds ahead

Community-Based Tourism:

‘-While in Kyrgyzstan, please respect local people’s traditions, cultures and religion.

-Pay fair price for lodging, food and services. Buying local products benefits the local economy.

-When entering a home, don’t forget to take off your shoes.

-Don’t smoke in homes.

-Please don’t give anything to begging children; it teaches them poor habits.

-Carry a plastic bag for litter. Pack up all non-biodegradable rubbish.

-Please don’t drop cigarette butts or candy wrappers – set a good example for children!

-High altitude vegetation is frail; avoid trampling, and do not pick plants or flowers in quantity.

-Leave only footprints, take only photographs.’

Extracted from the CBT office in Arslanbob

Walked past cows
Past large roaring waterfalls
Trekked through the rocky edges
Wandering along the valleys
It started to rain. We walked towards what seemed like the Holy Rock, but there didn’t seem to be any definite path. Was this the route? Was this the path for the animals? We walked on, even as it poured relentlessly.
Rest-stops along the way

It was a long day, I recall walking through the rain and immense wind at one point, but we walked on anyway. When we eventually walked back we were tired, but grateful for the mutual support and encouragement.

I love Arslanbob for its beautiful calm nature that is free for me to embrace!

 

5. KGZ – Arslanbob – The many faces / Homestay

Arslanbob – I loved Arslanbob the moment I heard its name (biased, but yes, very alluring name. Arslan-bob. It tastes like a sprinkle of magic and fantasy.)

When I think of Arslanbob, I will remember the gentle cool breezes and the bright blue skies, peppered with tiny cotton floating carelessly in the wind. Like flakes of snow, lazing across the blue canvas. It adds to the spark of mystic. Arslanbob.

Unlike Bishkek, Arslanbob is almost totally Uzbek in population (looking at the map, it borders quite closely to Uzbekistan)

How are cotton plants planted?


After a 10 hour shared taxi ride through the mountains we reached Arslanbob, a predominantly Uzbek community home to the largest walnut forest in the world. The men wear the traditional Uzbek skullcap instead of the Kyrgyz kalpak. Everyone is really friendly; we walk past the homes and children giggle and wave shyly back. ‘hello! Hello! Photo!’ they ask, excited, crowding around. Wish I brought some food or cherries with me to give.

Kyrgyz kalpak

Uzbek skullcap

Arslanbob has a strong community-based tourism establishment. At the CBT office, we see the numerous homestays offered. To register and opt-in to host tourists, the CBT office has certain requirements that these homes will need to fulfill. E.g. Ensuring a basic level of cleanliness and comfort, toilet bowls, showers, blankets, meals that can cater to tourists’ tastebuds etc. These opportunities are also offered to those that fall below a certain income, in order to help those of a lower income group.

Tourists are a key source of income for the homes. When these homes eventually earn enough money, they ‘upgrade’ their homes, or allow other households to participate.

How interesting, studying about CBT in school and then speaking to someone from the CBT office from their perspectives.

The various homestays available:

 

Yes, good

Homestay family:

Room – big room. I remember stepping in feeling relieved in the night; it traps heat.
In the day, stepping into the room is much cooler. It is a space of respite in either case.
The blanket is thick and warm.

Dinner! My gosh, that plov. Awesome plov. We came back to this enormous plate of plov which we devoured, after a long, long day of hiking and walking nonstop for at least 8-10 hours. I remember my legs aching, and feeling immensely rewarded by this meal. 🙂

HAPPY!!!

Breakfast- the bread

For memory’s sake

They knew I was taking the photo. Before this I was also observing the kitchen. Roles.

In the morning, sunlight filtering in
Fam
We walked around the neighbourhood on our first day.
Everyone is really friendly, and everyone seemed really curious and interested in us, as foreigners. Everyone said hi, and many offered (volunteered) to take photos with us.
Word had spread about the polaroid. When we were walking back, another family seemed to be waiting for us. They stood there, giggling as we walked past, and indicated to the polaroid their friend had. We gave them some, and they were delighted.

The family looks on curiously at my polaroid for them. The little boy runs across the street to show his neighbour.

 

 

These little girls are walking home from school

They kindly agreed to the photo

 

 

 

 

Lovely day
More about Arslanbob:

“Of course, Arslanbob is not just about walnuts: the village has multiple identities. A relatively conservative Uzbek enclave in a predominantly Kyrgyz nation, Arslanbob has strong historical ties with Uzbekistan’s Fergana Valley that lies not so very far away over gerrymandered Soviet-period borders to the south (never was the political strategy of ‘divide and rule’ more apparent than with the convoluted and sometimes utterly nonsensical lines of demarcation that separate the now independent republics of Central Asia – Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan). Almost totally Uzbek in population and culture, Arslanbob is also a spiritual centre of sorts, with holy rocks and sacred lakes in the mountains above the village and religious shrines in the surrounding forest. Islamic it may be, but there are strong animist and shamanist overtones too – the peoples of Central Asia have always had a strongly developed sense of place that has its spiritual expression beyond the normal confines of formalised religion. Legend has it that in 329 BC, Alexander the Great visited these forests, extracted a walnut tree, and brought it to back to Greece.”
Seeing the Uzbek-dominant area makes me question – do the 5% Kyrgyz get along well in an Uzbek dominated area? Considering the ethnic tensions between them. Been reading up Wikipedia a little, and this seems similar to the Bosnia situation – stirring of conflict for political gains, nationalist statements, border issue, neighbouring countries stepping in

“Stalin then intentionally drew borders inconsistent with the traditional locations of ethnic populations, leaving large numbers of ethnic Uzbeks and Turkmen within Kirghizia’s borders. This was supposed to maintain a level of interethnic tension in the area, so that these closely related groups would not rise up against him”