Sunday, March 9, 2014

A mountain Too sacred

In the city of Osh, in the country of Kyrgyzstan, on the night of March 8, in an otherwise nondescript cafe, dance music poured out of the front door.  It drew me in, weary as I was of eating in quiet and lonely teahouses.  That is how we ended up stomping to a Kyrgyz remix of Gangnam Style, with hooting teenagers forming a circle around us.  The occasion?  A national holiday celebrated throughout Central Asia, coinciding with International Women's Day.  We had been seeing cheesy TV commercials leading up to this holiday, but did not expect that people would celebrate it so heartily!

But Kyrgyzstan is full of surprises.  Crossing the border by land from Uzbekistan, the first things we noticed were 1) dogs, 2) mountains, 3) people who look a fair bit more east Asian than their Uzbek neighbors.  Tables have soy sauce, all signs are in Cyrillic, and the air is colder.  In fact, the morning after the dancing, we awoke to a snow-covered valley.  The local hill was cloaked in white clouds and it felt like we were thousands of feet higher than we actually were. 

This hill is awesome by the way, and totally worth a visit.  Called "Suleiman Too," it is the "best preserved example of a sacred mountain in Central Asia" according to UNESCO.  I think this lady concurs.

She is sliding down the rock, we're told by a local, because it has healing powers.  The really plump people were especially fantastic to watch, because they slid so smoothly.  Elsewhere on the mountain, people were sticking their arms into holes in the rock, squatting and praying in tiny caves, and exercising.  At the peak, there is a little building with a dome.  Inside the building this dude can tell you all about how the prophet Soloman prayed on this very spot (and as evidence, there are well worn, knee-sized depressions in the stone floor), and how later Babar Shah of Moghul fame built a dome on top of it.  The dude cannot tell you this in English, but his gestures work excellently.  Plus he has a great Kyrgyz hat.

This hat, called an Ak Kalpak, is not a gimmick like some other "traditional costumes" you might see on sale in tourist areas.  People actually wear it.  We saw men and boys were wearing it all over town.  It is probably their version of what a cowboy hat is in America; folksy, stylish, and masculine. 

Our stay with Central Asia's Turkic people winding down, we are excited to hit up their relatives in the Mediterranean. See you in Turkey!

No comments:

Post a Comment