My photographic impressions of Osh city, the largest residential area outside Bishkek (the capital) in Kyrgyzstan.
The city is situated in the south of Kyrgyzstan, in the Fergana Valley and close to borders with Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. It is home to various different ethnic groups including Kyrgyz, Uzbeks, Russians, Turks, Tatars and other nationalities. The size of these groups changed radically in 2010 as a result of ethnic violence between Kyrgyz and Uzbek ethnic groups which was precipitated by disatisfaction with the government of the time and complex economic difficulties that continued from the time of the disolution of the USSR in 1991. In turn a massive refugee crisis in the Fergana area of Uzbekistan occured when ethnic Uzbek’s fled their homes in Kyrgyzstan for safety.
Osh was a major feature on the Silk Road trading route for 100s of years and as such continues to have an enormous, outdoor bazaar, packed with areas for anything you can imagine! Osh is also famous for it’s ‘mountain’ in the centre of the city. Suliaman Too (a UNESCO site) is an important sacred place within the Muslim community as well as being a popular tourist attraction. The peaks, caves and tracks surrounding the sites are thought to cure all manner of illness (unfortunately not my stomach issues!) and children are encouraged to slide up and down grooves in rocks worn smooth with the beliefs of the faithful.
Osh appears very conservative compared with Bishkek, I would guess as a result of the closeness to Uzbekistan and conforming to more conservative Muslim values regarding appropriate attire. It has felt much more (socially) comfortable to wear trousers, t-shirt and a loose scarf around my shoulders … solidly reminding me of places I visited in central Turkey … however women throughout the city can be seen wearing varying levels of clothing coverage/ethnic dress alongside the men wearing their traditional hats and swimming in the river. The difference in attitude towards the genders is marked.
The daily summer temperature is scorching (35+) and the nights are not much lower, sitting as the city does on the valley floor (at about 600m) … this has been tough for me and I have had various health/stomach problems I think as a result of the change in weather, heat and also location/topography … not just because I am a grubby cyclist!
During an enforced period of resting/waiting for health to improve and visa’s to be completed I have remained in the garden of TES guest house, a fantasic place to recuperate not only because I can camp for 450com/night but because this includes a wonderful breakfast in the morning … and I have been in a position to meet a lot of other cyclists, overlanders and travellers all sharing hints and tips on this part of the world. Its a very relaxed, communal guesthouse with great facilities that make resting up a positive experience … but I’m very much done with that and am furiously hoping that I will be back on the bike in the next few days!! Fingers firmly crossed … we shall see …!