Social Profile

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.

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Information provided by Kyrgystan Tourism Board.

 

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