World Nomad Games in Photos

Posted on October 6, 2016 by

The 2016 World Nomad Games in Photos

“If Genghis Khan were alive, he’d want to be here,” the host at the World Nomad Games 2016’s opening ceremony announced as fireworks lit up the skies.

Indeed, Genghis would have been proud to be at the World Nomad Games.

Held from 3 to 8 September on the shores of Lake Issy-Kol in Kyrgyzstan, the second World Nomad Games drew more than 1,200 participants from 62 countries. They competed in traditional sports like horseback archery, stick wrestling, and dog hunting. Not to mention displaying their nomadic culture in the form of costumes, food, song and dance. The mission of the games is to celebrate the nomadic heritage of the Central Asian nations and promote the revival of the nomadic culture. 

Most of the sporting games at World Nomad Games 2016 were held in the brand new 10,000-seat Hippodrome. This is located right by the Issy Kol lake at Cholpon-Ata. Over six days, the stadium played host to traditional sports like Er enish (horseback wrestling), At chaysh (long-distance horse racing) and Cirit (horseback javelin). Let’s not forget Central Asia’s favorite – Kok-boru (horseback polo using a headless goat carcass).

The Gazprom Sports and Recreation Centre next to the Hippodrome was the setting for indoor sports such as Alysh wrestling, Kyrgyz kuresh, and Goresh (basically different kinds of wrestling). Over at the Soviet-style Aurora Sanatorium, a series of intellectual games were also held to test the wits of the participants in a different manner. Traditional nomad board games like Toguz korgool and Mangala were played there.

But the World Nomad Games isn’t all about the sports — it’s also about the Central Asian culture.

At the Kyrchyn ethno village, Kyrgyz people from different regions in the country put up performances of traditional song and dance. They displayed their costumes and artwork with pride. Other ethnic sports like eagle and dog hunting as well as archery were also held on the green pastures here surrounded by the imposing Ala-Too Mountains.

Here’s a look at some of my best photos from the World Nomad Games 2016. Hope they’ll give you a good idea of how spectacular the games were!

World Nomad Games in Photos

world nomad games photos

Kyrgyz people from all over the country came to Issy Kol for this special event dressed in their best traditional costumes. This group of ladies have traveled from Jalalabad in southern Kyrgyzstan. They are here to share their culture through song and dance with visitors.

world nomad games in photos

This lady, Benoka, had traveled for days to get here from Alay Mountains. She used to be a teacher in her village, but has retired recently and now works on handicraft to keep busy. Benoka showered me with hugs and kissed and even gave me presents to bring home for family, not expecting anything in return.

world nomad games photos

When traveling in Kyrgyzstan, it’s common to see Kyrgyz men wearing kalpak cotton hats like these.

world nomad games in photos

When I walked past this family and smiled, they warmly welcomed me into their yurt and showered me with borsuk (Kyrgyz pastries). Even though we couldn’t speak each other’s languages, they were so friendly and hospitable, and I could sense their warmth.

world nomad games photos

Over 300 yurts were set up on the Kyrchyn jailoo (pasture), about an hour’s drive from Cholpon Ata, to form an ethno village and temporary town where cultural events and music performances were held. Even yurt building contests were on the program.

world nomad games photos

The main stage for the opening ceremony at the Kyrchyn jailoo was set like a village.

world nomad games photos

They couldn’t have chosen a better location for the ethno village. The Kyrchyn jailoo is surrounded by the Ala-Too Mountains. Beautiful streams run through it and magnificent mountains overlook the area.

world nomad games photos

Horses are literally everywhere at the Kyrchyn jailoo, with locals using them as taxis to transport people around the massive area.

world nomad games photos

Stages are set all around the Kyrchyn ethno village. They are to host song and dance performances by artistes from around the country. The area is divided into sections that correspond to each region in Kyrgyzstan. For instance, there’s a Bishkek section showcasing music and costumes from the capital region.

world nomad games photos

Fancy wedding dresses on display in Kyrchyn.

world nomad games photos

Another memorable encounter I had was with Zura, a lady from the Naryn province of Kyrgyzstan. At the age of 56, she holds three diplomas: one in law, one in medicine and another in teaching. She’s one of the most important figures in her village and it’s obvious she loves what she does. Kyrgyz women are so tough and inspiring!

world nomad games photos

A peek inside one of the yurts at the World Nomad Games. It’s said that a yurt usually costs around US$1000, but the lavish blankets and art work inside cost around three times more than that.

world nomad games photos

Artistes from around the country were handpicked to perform at the opening ceremony in Kyrchyn. They did so along with a whole crew of camels, horses and sheeps.

world nomad games photos

Horses play an important role in the nomads’ culture, so naturally there were lots of horse acrobats on display in Kyrchyn.

 

world nomad games photos

Female horse riders as young as 14 years old are seen performing at the opening ceremony.

world nomad games photos

Another show stopper at the opening ceremony was the horseman that was set on fire!

world nomad games photos

Hundreds of performers were involved in Kyrchyn’s opening ceremony, all dressed in different costumes.

 

world nomad games in photos

At the falcon hunting competition, I captured this moment when the hunter released the mask from his falcon and prepared for takeoff.

world nomad games photos

At 17 years of age, this young lady was very excited to be performing at Kyrchyn and putting his horseriding skills to the test. Her father was there as well and he was incredibly proud of her.

world nomad games in photos

“No words can express how proud I am of our Kyrgyz culture, being here at the World Nomad Games.” Murat from Karakol, who hunts with his falcon for fun. He had come here to experience the games and was truly overwhelmed with pride.

world nomad games photos

This Kyrgyz participant was playing for the Turkish team in archery.

world nomad games photos

This little boy, at just 12 years of age, was participating in archery. It was heartwarming to see that the games also included young children.

world nomad games photos

A performer from the Bishkek regional area.

world nomad games in photos

Musical performers had rehearsed for months in preparation of the World Nomad Games.

world nomad games photos

The Kyrgyz yurts are so incredibly colorful and vibrant — both inside and on the outside.

 

world nomad games photos

Young children practising on their horses at the Hippodrome.

world nomad games in photos

The star of the show at the World Nomad Games was Kok-boru. A fiercely-competitive Central Asian form of polo, two teams battle for a headless goat/sheep carcass. Also known as Buzkashi, the sport is played widely in the region, including Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and China.

world nomad games photos

The USA team played Kazakhstan in a game of Kok boru. Even though nobody except the captain on the American team had played Kok boru before this, they still put on a good fight. The Kazakhs were extremely gracious and showed great sportsmanship.

 

world nomad games in photos

The biggest game of the entire games was the Kok boru finals between Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. It was intense and adrenaline pumping; plus surprisingly easy to follow along. I was standing amidst some Kyrgyz journalists, the atmosphere was raging as we all cheered for Kyrgyzstan.

world nomad games in photos

Kyrgyzstan emerged the winner, beating Kazakhstan fair and square with their skills and stamina. The crowd roared and cheered, and they just went wild!

 

world nomad games photos

Inside the Gazprom recreation area, I watched as participants from various parts of the world – like Zimbabwe, Argentina, Estonia – all come together and battle it out in wrestling.

world nomad games in photos

A young Russian girl is seen competing in one of the intellectual games at the Aurora Sanatorium.

world nomad games photos

Mas wrestling is a form of wrestling where participants fight for a stick.

world nomad games photos

Spectators watched intently at the Gazprom recreation center.

Additional Info:

The next World Nomad Games are said to be held in 2018 at the same venues in Kyrgyzstan. The exact dates have yet to be announced. If you’d like to stay updated, I recommend following the World Nomad Games Facebook page. Alternatively keep checking the World Nomad Games website frequently.

Disclaimer: My trip was organized in cooperation with Discover Kyrgyzstan. It was made possible by the support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government. All opinions expressed above are my own.

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About Nellie Huang

Nellie Huang is a professional travel writer and blogger with a special interest in off-grid destinations and adventure travel. Her mission is to visit every country in the world. In her quest, she's climbed an active volcano in Iceland, swam with sealions in the Galapagos, built a school in Tanzania, waddled with penguins in Antarctica, crossed into North Korea and drank beer in Palestine.

One Response to “World Nomad Games in Photos”

  1. Stephen Lioy October 7, 2016 7:51 am #

    Amazing post and photos, as always!

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