The Nomadic Kyrgyz

The Kyrgyz are a very nomadic people by tradition. In Bishkek, Osh, and other major cities you would hardly be able to tell, but just drive 10 minutes outside the city and you will see people living in yurts, or flocks of sheep being moved from one pastureland to another. It is a tradition they are very proud of as it defines their heritage and their national symbol found on the flag is the shape of their nomadic homes, the yurt.

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During the month of May, mountain valleys begin to thaw out after the harsh winter and luscious, fresh grasslands begin to appear. The owners of livestock use this opportunity to move their flocks from the over grazed lowlands to these newly accessible pastures. As you drive through the mountains you will witness these vast migrations as hundreds of sheep, goats, and cows fill the road, slowing down the traffic. As the flocks migrate, so do the people. In order to be adaptable to the changing natural conditions, the nomadic people developed the yurt as their home. The yurt is made of a curved wooden structure, wrapped in natural animal skins and canvas. The structure is very mobile allowing it to be tore down and reconstructed in only a few hours. When the season changes back to the cold, unbearable winter, the families can then easily move back down to the lower fields to avoid being covered in snow and allowing their animals to graze all year round. 

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As we were climbing the mountains of Jeti-Oguz, we came across a few families who were in the middle of this migration. They were transporting their yurt building materials to the alpine plains and rebuilding their homes. It was very interesting to watch them as they so quickly erected their new residence. As they took a break they laid down a few blankets and invited me to join them for tea and fresh baked bread. What a beautiful setting they have for their new home at the base of these rocky mountains! And what a simple life they lead as they so freely move their life from place to place with such few material possessions, but putting so much importance on living together as a family and taking care of their animals. It was such a privilege to witness this transition and partake of their first meal in at their new home for the season.

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2 thoughts on “The Nomadic Kyrgyz

  1. MamaNobles Reply

    What resourceful people living a simple life. I love that they were willing to share fresh baked bread with you! How do they cook it? Where do they get their ingredients? Does this make you want to aspire to the nomadic life and live in a Yurt? How do they heat the Yurt in the winter?

    1. Faces of Places Reply

      Great questions! Wish I spoke Kyrgyz! They migrate here during the summer so yurts are only needed for the hotter months and they had a flat bread so maybe they were able to bake them in temporary ovens up in the mountains and farm everything they need!

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