25 June 2012

Something to Love a Day in Kyrgyzstan: Yurts

I should say boz uy though, since that is the name for a yurt in Kyrgyz.  "Yurt" does come from a Turkic word, but it wasn't actually the word for the structure itself, but the ground a yurt sits (or sat) on.  Today urt means homeland in many Turkic languages. 

Kazakhs use kiyz uy (uy or something close to it means "house" in many Turkic languages), and Turkmens use ak oy or gara oy, depending on whether it's white or black.  Ak is white, kara (gara in Turkmen) is black.  Karakalpaks use qara uy too.  Mongolians, of course, use ger, which simply means house.

The Kyrgyzstan flag uses a tunduk, the hole in the top of a yurt's roof, in its center. 

Even though very few people still live in yurts in Kyrgyzstan, they're certainly still around.  You'll see them set up around Bishkek every so often for funerals, and it's not too uncommon to see one packed up somewhere.  They're set up for Central Asian holidays like Nooruz (not for Victory Day).  And anytime you get out of the city you'll see yurts where you can get a meal.

They're also popular for tourists.  We stayed in one last year in Sarala-saz.  The Kyrgyz couple stayed in the wagon and the tourists stayed in the yurt.  Here's a realistic take by Aaly Tokombayev on why wagons have become more popular for Kyrgyz:

How can they breathe in smoke so thick?
How keep together body and soul?
The young housewife takes a stick
To open the chimney hole.
In vain- the wind drives back the smoke,
Tears blanket up our smarting eyes.
And what a cough! More troubles here
Than anyone can realise.
The wind, run amok, tears the felt
With all its ever-growing strength.
Like the eagle's wings, the tatters flap
As if to fly away at length.
To keep the yurta from crashing down
We go and prop it up with poles.
The guests extend their freezing hands
To warm them at the hearth, poor souls.
A manaschi's version might explain why a tourist would choose the yurt:

Look at her beauty! White as snow she was.
Made not from felt, but from cloth.
Trellised wall varnished was.
And a mat, made from chij
Was with silk braided.
Ropes round the yurta
Of quaint beauty were.
When Manas came in the yurta
By luxury and beauty he was
Deeply surprised. 

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