Food & Drink :
Kyrgyz food shows the effect of its location and history; befitting a
nation descended from nomadic herdspeople, mutton is the staple meat,
enlivened with Chinese influences. Shashlyk (skewered chunks of mutton
barbecued over charcoal) and lipioshka (round unleavened bread) are
often sold on street corners. Plov, rice fried with shredded turnip
and scraps of mutton, served with bread, is a Central Asian staple.
Laghman is a noodle soup with mutton and vegetables that was
originally imported from Chinese Turkestan. Beshbarmak is noodles with
shredded, boiled meat in bouillon. Around Lake Issyk-Kul, the noodles
are sometimes served with jellied potato starch rather than meat.
Shorpur is a meat soup with potatoes and other vegetables. Manty
(steamed noodle sacks of meat and vegetables), samsa (samosas) and
chiburekki (deep-fried dough cakes) are all popular as snacks. The
Kyrgyz and the Kazakhs are almost alone among Central Asian people in
eating horse meat; only young mares are used and they are fed on the
Alpine grasses, which are thought to impart a particularly good
flavour. Restaurants in the capital tend to stop serving at 2200.
Black or green tea is the most popular drink. Koumys (fermented mares’
milk) is mildly alcoholic and can still be found in the countryside;
refusing an offer of koumys may cause offence. Other local
specialities include dzarma (fermented barley flour) and boso
(fermented millet, resembling beer). During the summer, chai khanas
(open-air tea houses) are popular. Beer, vodka and local brandy are
all widely available in restaurants.
Nightlife : There are performances of both Russian and European
operas and ballets in the State Opera House in Bishkek. Local music
and theatre has enjoyed a strong revival since independence and
excerpts from the Manas, the Kyrgyz national epic about the eponymous
warrior that runs to some 500,000 lines, play to packed houses. The
Manas was originally handed down orally, but was written down in the
early part of the 19th century.
Shopping : In Bishkek, Osh and Al-Medin bazaars are popular for
food and handicrafts. There is also a shop in the Art Gallery that
sells paintings and traditional Kyrgyz products. Particularly popular
are embroidered Kyrgyz felt hats (kalpak), felt carpets and chess sets
with traditional Kyrgyz figures. Shopping hours: Mon-Sat 0900-1700.
Special Events : Special events in Kyrgyzstan usually reflect
Muslim holy days, such as Ramadan, Eid al-Fitr (End of Ramadan), and
Eid ul-Azha (Feast of the Sacrifice). The Spring festival of Navrus
(New Days) is also celebrated. Dates of these events vary according to
the lunar calendar.
Social Conventions : Tipping : This is becoming more customary,
especially in international hotels.