Attending a Nomadic War Arts Festival in Kazakhstan

Almaty has been a fantastic adventure. The town is a huge metropolis that is surrounded by lakes and untouched nature. This week we went on an excursion that is provided by RLASP. We all took a bus to an Ethnic Center on the outskirts of town to enjoy a festival. This Ethnic center strives to support and preserve their native folk culture. We managed to get invitations to one of the festivals that they hold annually. The festival we went to was during a week dedicated to Nomadic war arts. Other weeks they try to hold a specific topic for every week such as Saxon war arts and Folk Traditions during the Bronze Age. On this day we arrived and saw a sprawl of Kazahk Yurts, traditional Kazahk tents, and free-roaming cows around the places. We sat down in the audience seats right when they began the festival. We saw people riding on horses in authentic costumes of the Nomads. They reenacted how the Nomads would use a bow and arrow while riding horseback. They would make the horse run as fast as it could and still somehow hit a target. Afterwards people reenacted how to traditionally fight with swords, spears, sabers, and shields.  It was amazing to watch. I was so mesmerized that I completely forgot to take any photos of this.

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After the fight reenactments, they attempted to show how their national bird, a golden eagle, could hunt. At first they tried to show the golden eagle fly from one person to another, however the bird had plans of its own. The bird seemingly became hungry and started hunting for prey. It would circle around in the sky while they tried to call the bird down to no avail. Thankfully everyone present took it in good spirit and laughed it off. Also, the bird was successfully found later on.

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Later that day we entered one of the biggest yurts to have lunch. We all ate Manti, an international dish that is kind of like a steamed dumpling, and plof, a dish that consists of rice, vegetables, and meat. Both were extremely delicious. If you have any chance to try either of these dishes, do it! You will not regret it. Of course, as is tradition, we all drank hot tea with the meal. Here they prefer to drink warm or hot liquids when the temperature is hot. They do so because cold drinks may disrupt your body and warm drinks help promote your body’s natural cooling process. Afterwards we all took turns riding horses around the Ethnic Center and tried using the bows and arrows. Finally, the closing concert began. The band wore clothing from the time period and played authentic folk instruments. The music was fantastic and more than once, the audience stood up to give the band a round of applause. At the end of the day we were all worn out from the festivities and went back to our homes exhausted but satisfied.

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By: Isaac Taylor

Program: Advanced Russian Language & Area Studies Program, Almaty, Kazakhstan

Term: Summer 2019

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