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Get the Goods

No visit to Kyrgyzstan is complete without the purchase of a souvenir or two!
More often than not, guests may find themselves recipients of gifts that are a standard sample of Kyrgyz handiwork.

Souvenirs run the spectrum in terms of quality and authenticity.  Felted wool is the name of the game though, in terms of true Kyrgyz craftsmanshiop, and it is turned into wide number of products that reflect a true function and use within the culture.  Popular amongst these are slippers, known as tabachki, which are standard inside any home as cold feet are unforgiveable.  At the market, these can be found in a wide range of sizes, with the baby ones melting anyone’s heart with their cuteness, and standard sizes coming in a wide array of colors and designs.

blue felt wool slippers with a curvy, intricate embroidered design in yellow, red, and purple

For men, kalpaks are a staple souvenir, but it is best if they are given to a guest as a gift, in order to hold with tradition.  Plenty are available for purchase however, if the opportunity for receiving one is not presented.  A relatively new item are the f
ine silk scarves that are inlaid with felt in delicate patterns; a sure win for the female friend or relative.  Felt wallets, trinket box yurts and sturdy felt purses are also popular souvenirs or gifts.  

Last of all are the shyrdaks, the ornate felt rugs that local women collectives will spend months to create.  These range in a variety of sizes, and are best purchased from a local women’s collective or with intel from a local for the best quality.  They can be folded or rolled to fit in a suitcase (true to nomadic nature!).  



A woman proudly displays some of her work at a local collective in Bokonbaevo.

One fun fact: every shyrdak has a twin.  As the patterns are cut and pieced together, no felt is wasted.  The parts that are removed from one design are laid out to create the same design, but in opposite colors.  It takes precision and care to be sure that all of the material will be put to use in these cozy, colorful, felt wool rugs.




by Ruby Mitchell, Online Content Editor @ White Leopard Travel Co.


Gifted a Kalpak

Traditionally, kalpaks are bought or made and then gifted to their owners. Here, a kalpak is being gifted to a guest during a dinner at the host's home. Another tradition dictates that during a guest's first visit to someone's home, a gift must be given. This kind of constant gift circulation is a tangible symbol of the culture that is based on hospitality, relationship, and reciprocity.


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