20 June 2012

Something to Love in Kyrgyzstan a Day: Osh

I finally made it to Osh this week after hoping to go there for years.  I loved it.  I loved finally getting to go to the Fergana Valley.  I love seeing Suleiman Too.  I loved seeing the mosques.  I loved the bazaar, all strung out along the river.  I loved the mahallahs.  The fruits and vegetables were wonderful.  I loved hearing Uzbek. 

Unfortunately for you though, we left our camera in a taxi just before we left and weren't able to get it back in time.  So it's all in my head.

I didn't have a lot of free time because I was tagging along with some doctors who were doing neonatal resuscitation training and I was helping with that.  That's its own post entirely.  But I did have some time in the afternoons to go out on my own and explore the city while the rest of the group rested at the hotel. 

One of the things I was specifically looking for was Uzbek pottery but all the places I had written down to check didn't exist anymore.  That kept happening, but it really wasn't too surprising.  Osh changed a lot two years ago.  In some ways I felt that so much of what I'd read about in the past and was prepared to see there is gone forever.

I did find one platter in the bazaar though. It was from Rishtan in Uzbekistan which is a famous town for ceramics.  I was disappointed because all the pottery that I can find for sale in Bishkek is mass produced  and has the exact same pattern.  Everywhere.  I like the design, but I also like variety.  It's also extraordinarily expensive in Bishkek.  For example, the plate I got in Osh was 150 som, a little more than 3 dollars.  A plate in the official Bishkek design is 2000 som at TsUM (although you should never pay that); the cheapest I've seen it marked is 900 som.  So yes, I was disappointed. 

I was also looking for some sort of Uzbek fabric, and there was, of course, plenty in the bazaar.  But I bought some from an Uzbek woman who was doing her own embroidery .  She even had a namaz cloth (unfortunately, machine embroidered) that is likely to go on our wall in the US.  She couldn't understand my Russian, but at least I could understand her Uzbek. 

Some of the taxi drivers said horrible things about Uzbeks, and there were some billboards around town that I thought were menacing.  One the afternoon when I was wandering in the mahallahs, I came across one that had been largely destroyed two years ago and was still in the process of getting rebuilt.  But there was a lot of work going on there, there were families in the streets, it was obviously Uzbek (those mahallahs are the only place in Kyrgyzstan I've seen where the signs advertising meat say gosht/myasa instgead of et/myasa). 

I saw the brand new mosque on the southwest side of Suleiman Too that had just opened last week, the giant statue of Lenin that's still standing on the south part of the center of town, Kurmanjan Jatka's statue, and Navoi's statue.  The bazaar was lots of fun to wander, especially since you could go back and forth over the river, and it was strung out for a couple of kilometers.

I also didn't have time to climb Suleiman Too, but maybe someday we'll be able to finally live there.  It would have been so different if we'd been in Osh instead of Tokmok last year liked we'd planned.

My only other regret was not having my husband there.  Exploring new cities is one of our favorite things, and the only time he's been to Osh was 7 years ago when he didn't speak much Uzbek.  But I still had a great time.  And even though I've never been to Osh, I was comfortable there. 

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