Trans Eurasia travel

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Home sweet yurt

For the nomad, modern day or otherwise, there’s no better home than a yurt. These easily collapsible felt homes are light, portable, spacious and well suited to the harsh and changeable climate conditions of Central Asia. Yurts (bosuy in Kyrgyz, kiiz-uy in Kazakh) are made of multilayered felt (kiyiz or kiiz) and stretched around a collapsible wooden frame (kerege). The outer felt layer is coated in waterproof sheep fat, the innermost layer is lined with woven mats from the tall grass called chiy to block the wind. Looking up, you’ll see the tunduk, a wheel that supports the roof (and which is depicted on Kyrgyzstan’s national flag). Long woven woollen strips of varying widths, called tizgych and chalgych, secure the walls and poles.

The interior is richly decorated with textiles, wall coverings, quilts, cushions, camel and horse bags, and ornately worked caskets. Floors are lined with thick felt (koshma) and covered with bright carpets (shyrdaks or ala-kiyiz), and sometimes yak (like cows but with bad hair) skin. The more elaborate the decoration, the higher the social standing of the yurt’s owners.

Spending a night in a yurt is easy – we can arrange authentic yurtstays, particularly in central Kyrgyzstan, from Suusamyr to Naryn. Nothing gets the nomadic blood racing through your veins like lying awake at night under a heavy pile of blankets, staring at the stars through the shanrak (the hole in the roof that allows air and light to enter and smoke from the fire to escape), wondering if wolves will come and eat your horse.