We have a lot of holidays here in Kazakhstan. Many are political and patriotic, but some extend beyond the existence of most modern nations. Nauryz is an ancient holiday, as in several thousand years, originating in Iran. Celebrated March 21-23, Nauryz marks the New Year for Kazakhstani people, as well as other Turkic and central Asian countries. It is a celebration of spring, emphasizing fertility, friendship, and renewal. Public events and gatherings are scheduled across Astana. Last week we noticed a dozen or so yurts were being set up next to one of the shopping malls and decided to head there on the first day of Nauryz to check it out.
We had to wait about 20 minutes to get in because we popped by while the president of Kazakhstan was visiting the celebrations. Once we passed through the camel gates (a flowery archway with statues of camels at the bases), I was grateful right away to see everything was covered in vibrant AstroTurf. We’ve had some sunny days and a few warm ones making everything quite muddy throughout Astana. The perimeter was marked by yurts enclosed in white coverings, each with brightly colored borders and details. There was a stage with live performances of Kazakh pop music; can’t say I’m a fan. There were several tables of crafts for sale. I would have liked to look at these a bit longer, but it was very crowded. I could see a few things for sale though: beautifully embroidered robes, felt slippers, colorfully painted ceramics from throughout Central Asia, some jewelry, and other miscellaneous things. Some of the sellers outside of these tents had things like leather horse whips, leather sheaths for large knives, and reproduction weapons.
The yurts seem to have been available only by reservation or were for performers, so we didn’t go inside any. There were many people in traditional costumes, some dancers, some warriors, some musicians. Traditional Kazakh clothing really is beautiful, very detailed and lively. I snapped a few photos and recorded a bit of video of some of the happenings!
There wasn’t much else to see, so we headed out for some lunch and to check out another area that was supposed to have events (but didn’t). We dined at a traditional Kazakh restaurant, and because it was the holiday, we were offered a soup that is made specifically for Nauryz called Nauryz-koje. The soup contains seven vital ingredients: water, meat, salt, fat, flour, grains (rice, wheat, or corn), and milk. Each has its own symbolic value and represents the ideas of the holiday. I thought it was going to be a warm soup, but it was served cold. It’s an acquired taste; the sentiment was nice. There was a table of desserts for guests on the way out. I tried a few things that were quite good, but I have no idea what they were called.
More celebrations are happening the rest of the week, but alas, we will miss them because we are on our way to Seattle and Vancouver for the next week and a half. I may share some of our adventures, but we might be quite busy with vacationing and attending our conference. It will be nice to have a taste of real spring and hopefully it will be waiting for me in Astana by the time I return!