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Are you wondering whether to book a trip to Kyrgyzstan to see the 2018 World Nomad Games? Well, we’re here to tell you to stop wondering and start booking! Such a thrilling event with all its unique excitement, adventure and cultural insight is a real once in a lifetime opportunity to see proud local traditions in action in a spectacular location.
Conceived as an Olympics equivalent for the Nomadic people of Central Asia, you may not be familiar with the sports on display, but it won’t take long to be swept up by the energy and thrill of the event. A fiercely competitive yet celebratory mood permeates all corners of the Games, from the yurt camps and cultural events to the Kok Buru stadium, and you can’t fail to get into the festival mood the breathtaking surroundings of Issyk-Kul Lake, with its mountain backdrop and emerald pastures thronging with hospitable Nomadic people keen to show off their enthralling culture to the world.
The first World Nomad Games festival took place in 2014, and became an instant success. One of the reasons the event was conceived was in order to promote tourism and encourage visitors to make Kyrgyzstan their next destination, but that does not mean it is laid on for tourists. It is fundamentally an event by and for the Nomadic people of Kyrgyzstan and beyond, and by far the majority of spectators are of Kyrgyz or other Central Asian origin. Families arrive from far flung corners for this festival of Kyrgyz heritage, setting up their yurts, putting on their colourful traditional dress and joining the crowds for this cultural carnival slash Nomadic Olympics.
Many spectators roam the lakeside site on horseback, giving them an excellent view of the various sports matches and contests going on throughout the Games. Others are keen to show off their exuberant culture to foreigners, sharing food, stories and hospitality where they can. There’s a real sense of pride at the Games, pride from the competitors and Nomadic spectators who are showcasing the best of their traditions and lifestyle with true panache in the world beating location of Issyk-Kul Lake.
The clean air and untrammelled nature along the shores of a sparkling lake make a stunning arena for the encampments of yurts, the stabling and the various venues for the Nomad Games. Opening and closing ceremonies are elaborate showcases of dance, agility and culture with an impressive musical element and fireworks galore, not to mention equine parades, and the remaining days of the event are a whirlwind of impressive feats of horsemanship, archery, falconry and more.
Some of the unmissable events are so full of drama and masterful skill they will take your breath away. Witness thundering groups of horses throwing up dust as they gallop at full pelt with their riders trailing flames. Marvel at the skill of female archers who compete by shooting bow and arrows using their feet. There’s so much to see and enjoy, so here’s the lowdown on some of the most eye catching events.
A bit like a horseback version of rugby, with a decapitated goat carcass instead of a ball, and a circular pit instead of a crossbar. The game is similarly physical to rugby, in that players need to be strong, skilled athletes and are quite likely to get knocked about during the match, and the other similarity is that each team is trying to reach their goal. In Kok Buru, however, the scrum forms around the goat, as players try to grab it and pin it under their leg to allow their hands to remain free to control the horse and hopefully steer it at speed towards the goal pit, where they must throw the goat in order to score a goal. If it all sounds a bit gory, well, it can be, as sometimes the carcass begins to disintegrate as it is yanked and hurled in all directions. But it’s an exciting and boisterous game requiring steely stamina and copious skill, making it a real thrill to watch.
This is a discipline along the lines of a triathlon, although the three sports definitely have a more Central Asian flavour. Firstly participants compete in the sport of hunting with eagles, where the grace, accuracy and speed of the eagle is taken into account, as well as its obedience and neat landing. Next, hunting with Teigan dogs takes place, together with Teigan races, and lastly the participants must show their prowess at mounted archery, where they shoot arrows at targets from the saddle of a horse.
Also known as Ordo, these popular games are centuries old, and widespread throughout Central Asia. There are endless varieties of games under the umbrella term of Shagai, all utilising play pieces which are the astragalus bones from the ankle of a sheep or goat. There is a long tradition of games played with these bones, which can be used like a dice (they have four distinct surfaces and depending on how they land, the uppermost surface is referred to as either ‘horse, camel, sheep or goat’) or used in shooting games a little like marbles, but there are endless variations of games played with shagai pieces.
The World Nomad Games is an incredible spectacle and an amazing opportunity to get involved with Central Asian culture. The Games only occur every two years, and in 2018 they fall in the first week of September. TravelLocal’s friendly Kyrgyz experts have put together a specific itinerary to include the World Nomad Games in 2018, an ideal way to combine the drama and excitement of the Games with a tour of some of Kyrgyzstan’s other highlights. Explore the natural splendour, warm welcome and unique culture of this wonderful nation on a tailor made tour created by our fantastic Kyrgyz experts just for you. Pop a few details over to them to get the ball rolling today. To speak to someone in the TravelLocal office, please call +44 (0)117 325 7898.