Trans Eurasia travel

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Kyrghyz Bazaar

Wherever we were going, looking for fruit (three apples one rouble), for vegetables, or saddles and harness, our way led always through the bazaar, the heart of the city. It was a fascinating spectaclc to watch the ground piled with the strangest assemblage of all the diverse objects to be found only in rag-fairs, while the variety of types of human beings would have ravished lovers of the picturesque with delight.

There were Kirghiz of noble birth—all honour where it is due—with straggly pointed beards, piercing eyes, and velvet bonnets on their heads which, with their grey or black astrakhan brims, seemed like large round crowns. Certain of the bonnets had only tiny bands of fur round them, a sort of toque whipped round the edge. They were always to be seen sitting astride their little mounts, their stirrups hanging low and with thick blankets hiding the wooden saddles. These are the 'Manaps,' or patriarchs, chiefs of their tribes, on whom often hundreds of yurts depend. Their wives wear enormous turbans, dazzling white, the material wound in close and narrow spirals—not  crossing as in the south—which are made to pass below the chin, providing a most impressive bandage for the head!

Others were still wearing the summer headgear of white felt, which rises to a pagoda point, the brim being split into quarters, each worn at whatever angle the proprietor desires, with a black velvet binding to the edges. For garments, a number of loose, ill-fitting robes are worn. Among them mingled Chinese Doungans, bonier than the Kirghiz, with hairless faces and ' yellow-greenish skins.

Every type of Russian was to be seen. Some with fair beards, some without beards at all; in hard hats or in soft, made of leather or of cloth; in knee-boots, or bare-footed; in Russian blouses or modern shirts; while the women, with large round faces and kerchiefs on their heads, wandered about with baskets on their arm.

The Uzbeks have thick, jet-black eyebrows and wear embroidered skull caps on their heads. Here, their women do not go veiled, though the 'paranja' is still worn—a robe which hangs from the head, leaving the false sleeves hemmed with braid to dangle at the back. The older women appear to have but one functioning eye, the other being hidden behind a second fold of the robe. As for the baby Kirghiz, they sometimes wear a tuft of eagledown rising from their velvet bonnets, with the most elegant effect.

"Turkestan Solo" by Dervla Murphy