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  • Day26

    Uzgen and Osh

    June 10 in Kyrgyzstan ⋅ 🌫 16 °C

    Another big travel day. "Think positive " Nastacia tells us "and we will make good time and have good weather". And so we did, arriving at the town of Uzgen just after lunch. An ancient trading town and handicrafts centre on the Silk Road, its main attraction is an rebuilt 11th century minaret and a trio of ornately carved mausoleums from the 11th to 13th century. The detailed brickwork was certainly very impressive.

    Osh, a city of around 200,000, is located a mere 5 km from the border with Uzbekistan, in the southern part of Kyrgyzstan. Once part of the much larger area of Turkistan, the 2 countries were created on the basis of ethnic divisions during the Soviet era ( 1917-1991). Osh has a large Uzbek population and thus is much more like its neighbour than it's more northern Kyrgyz communities. It has a more clearly Islamic identity and ethnic tensions have resulted in violent clashes in recent times.

    It was a relief to finally arrive at our hotel. We even treated ourselves to laundry service! We were surprised to be taken to an Italian restaurant for dinner, but it was actually a treat to have pizza and wine. On top of that, Nastacia had organized a surprise birthday cake for group member Lauren. This was the second birthday of the Kyrgyzstan tour, with Vitaly having his birthday only a few days before.

    Next morning we explored the somewhat old-fashioned but nonetheless interesting Historical Museum. Nastacia provided valuable insight into the prehistory and more recent history of Kyrgyzstan, as well as some of the cultural practices.

    Osh nestles at the base of Suleiman-Too Sacred Mountain, the only World Heritage Site in Kyrgyzstan. An imposing rock worthy of a climb, even on a hot day. For centuries Silk Road travellers have sought out the mountains caves and petroglyphs in the belief they would be blessed with longevity (amongst other things). Apparently it ranks amongst Central Asians as Islams third holiest shrine. A museum set within one of the caves presents a commentary on archaeological finds from the area and has wacky lights that are meant to look like stalagtites.

    Along the path to the lookout we came across women and children sliding down a slightly inclined rock. Said rock is supposed to help a) women who want to become pregnant and b) anyone with a sore back. One woman must have been very keen to become pregnant as she must have repeated her slide a dozen or so times!

    A quick wander through the local bazaar and an amazing theme park and it was time for our final Kyrgyzstan dinner. I think we were pretty unanimous that Nastacia and Vitaly had given us a fabulous experience in Kyrgyzstan and would be sorely missed.
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