Driving through the Kyrgyzstan countryside from Bishkek to Lake Issyk-Kul was a bumpy but pretty ride. I was able to visit many small markets filled with delicious fruit and other goodies the local people sell along the roadside. It was refreshing to see markets filled with food, clothing, a few toys and other necessities for local life. I didn’t find the typical souvenirs that are found at local markets in other countries as there weren’t any tourists around to buy them. The people were so kind whenever we stopped to grab a few snacks for the drive. Throughout the country, most women cover their hair with scarves. It wasn’t necessarily worn because of religion, but mainly because of modesty. They were proud of their little market stands and extremely proud of their children and wanted to show them off to me. Many times I was asked by the parents when they saw I had a camera if I would take a photo of their child. They loved looking at the image after on my camera screen. The country is filled with smiles all around.
From the side of the road, you will see what looks like tiny cities of old houses. They are actual ancestral cemeteries of the dead filled with ornate domes and small minarets. Depending on your financial standing when someone died these beautiful memorials were built. Being a nomadic people who spent most of their time traveling only the very noble and richest had these mud mausoleums built. However, during Russian control, they began to mark everyone’s graves. These cemeteries are overgrown with weeds and are run down by the elements are there is no maintenance done for the dead. After the body is buried relatives will visit the body for up to 40 days. After the 40th day, they will never return to the burial site. Nowadays, a large memorial will be constructed and other times just a small headstone depending on the amount of money willing to be spent. It was such an impressive site to see all over the countryside.
The people of Central Asia were mostly nomadic people and lived in yurts. However, during Soviet Control, it was discouraged for the residents of the country to move around. Many people were forced to live in villages because of Soviet policies. Although they gained their independence in 1991, the nomad life is becoming very scarce. Some local people will live in yurts during the summer with their animals and during winter, they return to life in the village. It is somber that many of the traditions and customs of the nomads is becoming less.
When driving in Kyrgyzstan, it is very noticeable that you will go many miles and not find a single residence. Then you will reach a small city or village, with all the houses together. These were built during Soviet control for the local people to stop traveling and settle. The more time I spent in Kyrgyzstan, the more I fell in love with this country. Every day was an amazing adventure.