Kyrgyz. Interesting word, don’t you think? When pronounced it makes your tongue do some funny things. This tribe of people live in an area of Northern Afghanistan called the Wakhan Corridor. I know you’ve probably never heard of it because war takes up news time and even then it fails to capture the other Afghanistan we never see or hear about.
Looking at the map in the northeast section you’ll see a narrow strip of land that extends to China and separates Tajikistan from Pakistan. Wedged between the Pamirs and the Karakoram mountain ranges you’ll discover it is only between 8-40 miles wide. The people that still live in this hostile environment is estimated to be between 1500-2000. These are the people I chose to discover as I created yet another adventure. Breathtakingly beautiful and tough as nails, find out more about the remaining people who dare to live precariously on the roof of the world.
- They are a pastoral people who live in yurts (round felt tents) at an altitude of 14,000 feet. On the outside they look drab, but once inside it becomes a riot of color that warms the body to the very soul.
- They are Sunni Muslims.
- Their leader is called a khan.
- They have the highest infant mortality rate in the world.
- Because of sickness, human loss and an extremely difficult life, opium is widely used. Some think because of the lack of medical treatment the opium helps in the relief of chronic pain, especially in the elderly.
- Goats, sheep and yaks make up their wealth as well as Bactrian camels and horses.
- Cell phones are not used to make calls but to take pictures and play games. They carry batteries to keep them charged.
- Dried yak dung is used as fuel to burn for cooking fire.
- Kebab, or meat is boiled or even fried in yak butter. Hungry yet?
- Everything of the goat is eaten, even an eyeball. Can you say chewy?
- Unmarried girls wear red head coverings while the married ladies wear a white one.
- Although the environment is bleak and harsh, women wear bright red clothing adorned with bells, pins and other shiny objects that tinkle on the wind that floats across the plateau of nothingness. The beauty of it all is nothing short of inspiring.
- A traditional Kyrgyz marriage is arranged by parents where a wife might cost 100 sheep.
- Under Islamic law men own property but with the Kyrgyz, women may also own property and even inherit her husband’s property.
I’ve only skimmed the surface of these amazing people. I hope you’ll continue your journey by going to YouTube and watching some of the videos about the Kyrgyz people. They continue to wade through my moments of silence and foster dreams within my imagination. Steve McCurry, Matthew Paley,
National Geographic, Tumblr and YouTube have so many pictures and videos. Please try them out. You can also go to my Pinterest page at https://www.pinterest.com/ptierneyjames/enigma-3-rooftop-angels/ where I’ve compiled a collection that inspired me for the book, Rooftop Angels.