A visit to this country is like going back in time to the period where the Mongols were ruling the area. You will still find semi-nomadic and yurt-dwelling people who mainly tend to animals rather than to agriculture, due to the topography of the land. Rather than being a country filled with many valleys, mountains and forests, Kyrgyzstan is more abundant in steppes, ridges and mountains. Some of the main attractions of this place are the mountains, the beaches by Lake Issykol and the quaint and interesting rural areas where the yurt-dwelling people stay. This is also a great destination for skiing in the winter, although there is not much else to do in the wintertime. It is really more of a summer destination.
KYRGYZSTAN – IMPORTANT AND INTERESTING FACTS
- Lake Issyk-kul in Kyrgyzstan is the country’s largest lake and is fed by the Djyrgalan and Tyup Rivers. It’s the second-largest high-altitude lake in the world. Lake Issyk-kul is smaller only than Lake Titicaca in South America when it comes to mountain lakes. Covering more than 6000 square kilometers (2400 square miles), the lake has no visible outlet.
- Lake Issyk-kul in Kyrgyzstan is the tenth-largest lake in the world and the second-largest saline lake, after the Caspian Sea. Because it never freezes in the winter, Issyk-kul’s name is derived from Kyrgyz for “hot lake”. Several endangered species of fish live in the lake’s fragile ecosystem.
- The city of Barak, Kyrgyzstan lies entirely within Uzbekistan, a couple of kilometers away from the border. Therefore, Barak is an exclave of Kyrgyzstan and an enclave of Uzbekistan.
- Kyrgyzstan is one of the most mountainous countries in the world. Mountains cover 80% of Kyrgyzstan and 90% of the country lies 1500 meters above sea level. The Alai Mountains are a part of the Tian Shans and cut through the southwestern part of the country; the main part of the range is farther east. The Pamirs are farther south and run in southern Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Afghanistan. The Himalayas, however, do not enter Kyrgyzstan: they run through Nepal, India, and China, which are farther southeast.
- Arslanbob, located in the Jalal-Abad province of Kyrgyzstan, is the world’s biggest natural growth forest devoted to walnut. Arslanbob is well-known for its scenic beauty. During the summer, visitors come from all over the world to visit the site’s beautiful waterfalls and forests. A moderate temperature allows an extremely large diversity of walnut trees to grow in the area.
- Unlike neighboring countries such as Kazakhstan, the environment of Kyrgyzstan has not been devastated through the large-scale production of cotton. This crop was also grown in the Antebellum southern United States. Central Asia is one of the world’s largest producers of cotton- China, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan are all in the top ten for most bales produced per year.
- When you visit Kyrgyzstan you won’t be travelling on Ocean Liner. Kyrgyzstan is one of the world’s 43 landlocked nations. However being landlocked does not mean Kyrgyzstan is without important waterways or modes of transportation. There are over 40,000 rivers and streams in the country.
- Kyrgyzstan has 18 power plants to supply electricity for its residential and commercial needs. Of these power plants, 16 use hydroelectric power. The available water flow is generated by run-off from the heavy snows in the Tian Shan mountains that dominate the Kyrgyzstani landscape, and feed the country’s over 40,000 rivers and streams.
- The Tian Shan mountain range is one of the largest mountain systems in Asia and a dominating feature of the Central Asian skyline. The name “Tian Shan” is Chinese for “celestial” or “heavenly” mountains. The 2,500 km length of the range straddles the border between China and Kyrgyzstan.
- Kyrgyzstan is one of the world’s leading producers of mercury ore. Kyrgyzstan has considerable resources in minerals and valuable rare earth metals. Most of the known mineral deposits are in the southwest portion of the country. In these mines, you find large amounts of mercury ore, antimony, lead, zinc and gold.
- The Suleyman Throne (Dom Babura in Kyrgyz), a sacred site to Muslims, overlooks the second largest city in Kyrgyzstan. Suleiman’s (Solomon’s) Throne is a rock outcropping that dominates the skyline of Osh. Osh has a population of over 250,000 people, making it the second largest city in Kyrgyzstan.
- Solomon’s Throne is considered a holy site because the Prophet Mohammed, allegedly, rested and prayed there during his travels along the trade route. The rocks are said to resemble the image of a pregnant woman. As such, the shrine has earned the reputation as a place for woman desiring to become pregnant should visit to offer prayers.
KYRGYZSTAN – COOL, FUNNY AND FUN FACTS
- An exclave of a country is a territory of a country with which the territory does not physically border. An enclave, on the other hand, is any territory whose geographical borders lie entirely within another country. The city of Barak, Kyrgyzstan lies entirely within Uzbekistan, a couple of kilometers away from the border. Therefore, Barak is an exclave of Kyrgyzstan and an enclave of Uzbekistan.
- In Osh, the bazaar’s fruit and meat stalls are highly photogenic, but note that some vendors will get angry if you attempt to photograph them.
- The Inylchek Glacier of Kyrgyzstan is one of the largest glaciers in the world.
- Be careful in the cities of Osh, Jalal-Abad, and Bishkek. The roads and sidewalks are filled with holes and uncovered sewers.
- Alcohol is very cheap in Kyrgyzstan. A bottle of vodka is priced at around 180 som (3.5 EUR), while beer costs 60 som (1.2 EUR).
- Tourists can negotiate with any car on the road; they’re all potential taxis – if the price is right.
- Kyrgyz people love horses, partly because their nomadic ancestors depended on the animals for survival. One of most popular Kyrgyz sports remains kok-boru or ulak-tartysh, a horse-mounted game that resembles polo — except the ball is, no kidding, a headless goat.
- Kyrgyz nomads used to ride horses everywhere, so it’s no wonder their traditional music features the qyl-qiyak, a violin-like instrument whose strings are made from a horse’s tail.
- The most famous national drink is horse milk “kumyz”
- The country is essentially a very safe one but it is a little disconcerting to note that there are hardly any street lights anywhere. Even the capital-city of Bishkek is barely lit after dark.
- Most of the vans, minibuses and trucks in the country are second-hand models from European countries: it’s very common to see a truck, marked with “Schmidt Obst und Gemuese, Hannover, Deutschland” crawling up a mountain pass.
- Variants of kok-boru are played in nearby countries under different names, and teams representing all 10 Kyrgyz provinces (known as oblasts in Russian) compete in Bishkek every August 31 for a national kok-boru title and a prize of up to about US$40,000.
KYRGYZSTAN – HISTORICAL AND CULTURAL FACTS
- The city of Osh was an important commercial center in the 10th century as part of the Silk Road, the trade route between China and Europe.
- Osh is the capital of Osh Province and is very close to the Uzbekistan border. The Osh region is the historic birthplace of Babur, the founder of the Mughal Empire. Kyrgyzstan is a predominately Sunni Muslim country of 6,000,000 people supporting over 1600 mosques.
- Bishkek comes from a Kyrgyz word for a churn used to make fermented mare’s milk. Bishkek was founded in 1825 as the city of Pishpek, and its name changed to Frunze for most of the twentieth century after Bolshevik Mikhail Frunze.
- Kyrgyzstan became an independent republic in end 1991, when USSR was dissolved.
- The national symbol of Kyrgyzstan, as shown on the country’s coat of arms, includes a glorious gyrfalcon with its wings outstretched. The gyrfalcon in flight was adopted as the national symbol when Kyrgyzstan declared its independence from the Soviet Union in 1992. The soaring bird of prey symbolizes the freedom and independence of Kyrgyzstan.
- The 1993 constitution defines the form of government as a democratic unicameral republic. The executive branch includes a Supreme Chancellor and Vice Chair. The parliament currently is unicameral. The judicial branch comprises a Supreme Court, local courts and a Chief Prosecutor
- The amendments to the constitution approved by the referendum resulted in stronger control by the president and weakened the parliament and the Constitutional Court. Parliamentary elections for a new, 75-seat unicameral legislature were held on 27 February and 13 March 2005, but were widely viewed as corrupt.
- The subsequent protests led to a bloodless coup on 24 March 2005, after which Akayev and his son, Maksim, fled the country and was replaced by acting president Kurmanbek Bakiyev.
- In addition to celebrating the New Year each 1 January, the Kyrgyz observe the traditional New Year festival Nowruz on the vernal equinox. This spring holiday is celebrated with feasts and festivities such as the horse game Ulak Tartish.
- Kyrgyz women produce a wide range of textiles, mostly from the felt of their sheep. Ancient patterns are nowadays adapted to the tourist and export market, but it is still a living tradition, in that all yurts and most houses contain hand-made carpets or rugs called shirdaks.
- The cuisine of Kyrgyzstan is similar in many respects to that of its neighbors, particularly Kazakh cuisine. Traditional Kyrgyz food revolves around mutton and horse meat, as well as various dairy products. The cooking techniques and major ingredients have been strongly influenced by the nation’s nomadic way of life. Thus, most cooking techniques are conducive to the long-term preservation of food. Mutton (lamb) is the favorite meat, although many Kyrgyz are unable to afford it regularly.
- Handshaking is ingrained in the Kyrgyz culture. People shake hands almost every time they meet each other even if you they work in the same place and meet 5 times a day.