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Yurts in Uzbekistan

Yurt – a home of the nomads

Yurt-portable frame dwelling with felt covering used by Turkic and Mongolian nomads.

The most common meaning of Turkic word “jurt” is “people”, as well as “pasture”, and “ancestral land”. In the Kyrgyz and Kazakh languages, the word “Ata-Zhurt” means “Fatherland”, a synonym for the word “Motherland”, literally: “the people of the father”. In modern Mongolian language, the word yurt (ger) is synonymous with “home”. In the Kyrgyz language, the yurt is called “boz uy” – “gray house”, since usually the felt for a yurt is of a grayish shade, richly decorated yurts with more expensive white felt covering has the name “ak uy” – “white house”, in Kazakh the yurt is called ” kiz uy “, which literally means” house from the felt”.

A yurt is a truly full-fledged house, saving its inhabitants from the fierce cold, merciless heat and cruel animals. Just itself it functions as a kitchen, living room, bedroom, bathroom…. If there is a guest staying overnight with a family, then hosts usually hang a curtain in the middle of the yurt dividing the interior into 2 parts: men and women’s side. Thus, they can sleep peacefully.

The structure of a yurt

The structure of the yurts of the Turks and Mongols differs slightly from each other. Turkmen, Karakalpak, and Navoi region yurts have double-leaf wooden doors. In Kazakh and Kyrgyz yurts, a felt canopy is often used instead of a wooden door. Kazakh yurts are lower than Kyrgyz ones due to strong winds in the steppe. Mongolian, Buryat and Tuvan yurts are even lower because of the straight ceiling poles.

A yurt fully satisfies the needs of nomad tribes due to its convenience and practicality. It is quickly assembled and easily disassembled by the forces of one family within one hour. It can be easily transported by camels, horses, or a car, its felt cover does not let rain, wind and cold pass through. A hole at the top of the dome serves for daylight and allows the use of the hearth. The main parts of the yurt are: “kerege” / rope (lattice folding walls), “uk / uyk” (poles that make up the dome), “tyundyuk / shanyrak (circle at the top of the dome, fastening the poles), “ergenek” (entrance door), “koshma” (felt) covering the entire structure.

Mongolian, Buryat, Kalmyk and Tuvan yurts have a couple of props in the center to maintain a low vault. Kyrgyz, Kazakh, Turkmen and Karakalpak yurts do without any support due to the higher vault. The yurt is still used in many cases by livestock breeders in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, and some parts of Uzbekistan due to its practicality.

Yurts in tourism

Staying in yurts is becoming an exotic experience for travelers nowadays. Thus, in Uzbekistan there are some areas with Yurts campings/tents serving travelers: Qibla/Kibla Ustyurt (near shrinking Aral Sea), Ayazkala, and Yangikazgan (near Aydarkul). Each has around 15 yurts and usually, 4-5 guests are accommodated in a yurt. But upon request, they can arrange a yurt for exclusive use. Hosts will provide matrasses, pillows, and bed linens. Sleeping in a yurt on the ground covered by carpets is really an adventure!

The yurts have basic facilities with general toilets and showers outside but travelers do not mind it for 1-2 nights. Guests in Ayazkala and Yangikazgan yurts can enjoy a camel riding, and a performance of an “Akin” (nomadic singer) during a dinner. Guests can participate in cooking processes.