It is important when visiting another country to have a basic understanding of its people and customs.
Kyrgyz customs are largely influenced by their nomadic heritage. This is most obvious in the yurta, the tent used by many people to this day. This consists of a wooden skeleton and a felt cover and takes only an hour to set up.
Kyrgyz music consists of mainly stringed instruments, which I am keen to have a go on!
The first sentence on Kyrgyzstan's 'traditions' part of its wikipedia page reads "Illegal, but still practiced, is the tradition of bride kidnapping". This is nowadays a far less hostile thing than it once was, a throwback now to the days when if you wanted a woman, you stuck her on your horse and made off.
The food of the region is heavy on meat, dairy and bread and light on spices. Each meal ends with the 'omin', a facewashing motion giving thanks to God.
Kyrgyzstan is well known for its national dish, Beshburmak. This literally means 'five fingers' and this is how it is supposed to be eaten. It consists of noodles, pieces of meat and a spicy sauce. A sheep is butchered and the parts given out according to custom. Honoured guests get the sheep's head and eyeballs, considered a delicacy.
Kymyz (pronounces Kumis) is the national drink of Kyrgyzstan and is a slightly alcoholic drink made of fermented mare's milk.
Kok Boru, literally "Goat snatching" is the most famous game to originate in Kyrgyzstan. Two teams of horsemen seek to snatch a goat from the centre of the field and deliver it to the other team's goals.
Other games are mainly horse based as well. 'Oodarysh' is wrestling on horseback, 'Tyin Enmei' is picking up a coin from the ground while galloping at full speed.
'Kyz Kuumai' is a traditional wedding game where a young man on horseback must catch a girl (also on horseback) and kiss her. Should he catch her (she is given the best horse and a 20m head start) he gets to kiss her, should he fail to pass her by a given point they ride back to the start, the girl whipping the man all the way.
'Er-Siysh' is a bit more aggressive, in that two riders try to pull each other off their horses using pikes.
The Kyrgyz are known as friendly, welcoming people with a rich culture and heritage.
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