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World Nomad Games | The Village

Imagine being transported in a moment to another time and place.  One road, one day, a beautiful lake comes into view, and then… magic.  You’re in a nomadic land, hundreds of years ago, with the outfits, smells, sounds, and language of that time surrounding you.  

As the Olympics take over as a global phenomenon, Central Asia is striding forward with its own event of athletic competition between the nations that claim a nomadic heritage.  Since 2014, Kyrgyzstan has hosted the World Nomad Games at Cholpon Ata, on the shores of Lake Issyk-Kul.  While traditional nomad sports are played competitively throughout each day, the event is also a celebration of nomadic culture and lifestyle.  A “village” is built, where artisans from Central Asian nations prepare food and demonstrate the creation of handmade cultural artifacts and designs.  Most people spend their days in full traditional costumes, and collectively there is a jovial atmosphere amidst the constant tension of competition.  Groups of Kyrgyz women work on the felt rugs known as shyrdaks, thick, intricate, and completely created by hand.   Men can be seen working with carpentry or leather as they shape, mold, and design goods that are essential to the nomad tradition.  

Dance and music performances take place in the evenings, or between sporting events, and fill the late summer air with the sweetly distinct sounds of a people at one with the land.  The dazzling colors of the dancers and masterful stories that their movements weave add to the sensation of existing in a time past.  Family groups from different regions engage in impressive yurt construction competitions, and besides all of that, there are the horses.

Horses are at the heart of the nomad lifestyle, and men and women of all ages display their prowess at training, maneuvering, and performing stunts on horseback.  From the horse races to the besh barmak cook-offs, the World Nomad Games are an abundant example of the local culture and lifestyle of the nomadic tradition.

Ruby Mitchell

Online Content Editor @ White Leopard Travel Co.

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