Central Asia is famous for its nomad lifestyle. Kyrgyzstan is usually associated with nomadic culture. In fact, still today, nomadic life remains one of the standard ways of life in the Kyrgyz mountains, especially talking about the fantastic Fergana Range.
Meeting nomads around the world is always an excellent cultural experience as you interact with people having a completely different way of life.
Definition of nomad
a. A member of individuals or tribe who move from place to place to find pasture and food;
b. A person who continually moves from place to place; a wanderer.
Fergana Valley Nomads
While driving in Kyrgyzstan, I had the chance of crossing this remote and beautiful part of the country, and encounter several nomad families.
Kyrgyzstan itself offers outstanding mountain landscapes, and the possibility of direct contact with such a unique way of life makes the whole trip rewarding.
By car, I crossed the Uzbek border near Osh, until the capital Bishkek – where I eventually sold it and flew back home.
Fergana Range belongs to the Tian Shan mountain range. The length of the whole range is 206 km / 128 mi. The average height of these mountains is 3600 m / 11811 f above sea level and many families camp on these green valleys in the summer.
The non-asphalted roads of the Fergana Range gave me the opportunity of getting off the beaten path, and being able to see rural parts of the country very deeply. Fortunately, I stayed with two different Kyrgyz nomad families in two separate places in the mountains.
On this page, I will only describe my stay with one of the families and leave the other one for another different article.
I was generously hosted by a fabulous and friendly family. They explained to me about their daily life, what they do, how they cook, each person’s individual task and where they live during the winter – as they do have to change their place to their home in a nearby town.
We communicated with each other in Russian – as my skills in this language are enough to maintain such type of conversation.
Where do Kyrgyz Nomads live
This Kyrgyz nomad family lives on the slope of a mountain, very close to a river from where they collect water. The surrounding mountain views are outstanding.
How do they live
Nomads in Central Asia live in a particular type of tent called a yurt. The local name for this tent in the Kyrgyz language is boz üy.
The family owns two yurt tents and all the necessary facilities to produce a wide variety of natural dairy products. Although very hard-working people, the family is extremely united and life seems to be taken smoothly.
This is how they have hot water to use for their tea. Green or black tea is always present on a Kyrgyz table.
What do they do
Tasks are well distributed. One man goes with the cows up the mountain early in the morning along with the sunrise. The summer mountain green valleys are the perfect place to herd cows, goats, and horses – to keep them well fed.
The whole process of producing and changing milk involves the entire family, and everyone has a particular task. The family gets together to produce butter and dried salty cheese ball, and stock for winter.
Qurut Cheese by Kyrgyz Nomads
During one of my Kyrgyz nomad encounter, I learned about their dairy product manufacturing, how they collect the milk, until the final stage of different dairy products such as butter, sour milk, cottage cheese, Qatiq yogurt, and the rather stinky dried salty yogurt balls.
Personally, I don’t like or consume dairy products that much, since they are usually filled up with chemicals, antibiotics, added sugar and artificial flavors. But the natural aroma and pureness of these dairy products from the mountains are a whole different product. They taste strong but healthy and 100% organic – nothing to do with the crappy stuff we buy at the supermarket.
Everyone helps in this process, from oldest to youngest.
During the process, different products can be manufactured. Qatiq, which is a type fermented solid milk drink – something close to yogurt – but usually a bit sourer.