For the second time in a row the World Nomad Games were held in a Kyrgyz town: Cholpon Ata. Located near their holy lake, Issyk-Kul, the 10th largest lake in the world, it is famous thanks to the nearby petroglyphs and the abundance of mainly Russian tourists in the summer.
You can see walking by the main boulevard in Cholpon Ata, the country’s contrasts: on the roads there are many new, imported Japanese cars, but old Russian ones as well.
The beetroot is a common ingredient in the cuisine of the ex-soviet countries, including Kyrgyzstan.
Beshbarmak, the national Kyrgyz food. It means “five fingers” because, guess what, the dish is eaten with one’s hands.
World Nomad Games
In brief, the World Nomad Games are the Olympics for the nomad origin countries and by definition: international sport competition dedicated to ethnic sports practiced in Central Asia.
It is organized every second year, in 2016 were included 23 games, more than 1200 athletes and 62 participant countries including Norway, Brazil or Zimbabwe.
The picture below was taken at the opening ceremony. We couldn’t manage to get tickets so we had to follow it from the top of a container placed in the parking, together with other locals 🙂
The official World Nomad Games 2016 promoting video:
We found out about the games thanks to the event posters which were almost everywhere in Bishkek and people described it as the most expected event so we decided to change our travel plan. We spent less than two days, but the experience was authentic and amazing, it’s a “five-star-recommend”.
As the nomad nations’ main mean of transport and battle advantage was always the horse, the majority of sports played at the World Nomad Games are equestrian. You can read more about the sports here.
Kok-boru (gray wolf) is maybe the most popular sport played at World Nomad Games.
It has its origins in the distant past, from a time when men went to go hunt for prey to feed their families and cattle remained under the supervision of elders, women and youth. Wolves often attacked livestock and caused many problems. After returning from the hunt, angry men would go to chase after the wolf pack. Having caught up with the pack, they would pick up running wolves from the ground, throwing them between each other almost playfully. The game today requires teams to throw a dead sheep or goat into their opponent’s well on the playing field.
In brief: the “ball” is a dead goat and has to be thrown in the enemy team’s “goal”.
Before the moment of the goat scoring 🙂
Goat scoring on video:
Two athletes sit facing each other, with the soles of their feet on opposite sides of a board. The two wrestlers grab a stick with their bare hands. In order to win, one wrestler needs to pull the stick from the other, or pull his opponent to his side of the board.
Kyrgyz men with traditional hats watching the mas-wrestling.
Cute, little yurts at the official World Nomad Games merchandising store.
Bozo, the biggest Kyrgyz company producing traditional and flavored ayran-style products. When the owner of the company saw that we are foreigners he invited us inside their promotion store and gave us samples from every type of Bozo 🙂 My favourite is with sea buckthorn (RO: cătină, HU: homoktövis)
Together with our tourist fellows from Canada, Germany and Netherlands – enjoying the ayran.
The Kyrchyn valley
The Kyrchyn valley, in the middle of the mountains, was one of the main locations of World Nomad Games. This huge valley was “invaded” by cars, horses and yurts for several days, it looked like half of Kyrgyzstan was there.
Falcon hunting is part of the nomad region’s tradition, they even have some falcon hunting sports at World Nomad Games (see here)
People watching the opening in the Kyrchyn valley:
Girl on a horse using a smart phone – after a week in Kyrgyzstan not surprised to see this 🙂
During the day, we were a few times invited to enter some of the yurts in the Kyrchyn valley, but we declined superficially, thinking it’s a tourist trap. At the end, our curiosity won and took us inside.
To our surprise, all of the food and drinks were offered by our hospitable hosts and we even managed to discuss with them in English about their food and our countries.
On the left side is Kumis, their national fermented drink made from horse milk. Tasting Kumis was one of my main goals to do in Kyrgyzstan. (Unfortunately) it’s taste is very special and different from what you probably drank before 🙂
The valley was split in several parts, every part representing a region in Kyrgyzstan. This is how one of the region’s clothes look like:
Aaand a yurt 🙂
Of course, with a backpack.