Have you ever been to a city that is more than 3000 years old? If not, you have to book your flight to Kyrgyzstan as soon as you can to visit Osh, the second largest city, located in the south of the country and often referred to as the “capital of the south”. Here, the mix of cultures, traditions, ethnicities, and cuisines will enchant you and make your trip unforgettable.
Osh is one of the oldest cities in Central Asia. The exact date of its origin is unknown, however the city of Osh is mentioned in IX century Arab sources. What is known is that Osh was a major trading centre on the Silk Road, connecting the Mediterranean and the Middle East with the Pamirs, Tibet, China and India. Here is the list of things you absolutely have to do while you are in Osh:
Sulaiman-Too Sacred Mountain
The main attraction of the city – Sulaiman-too (also known as Mount Taht-I-Suleiman, which means “Throne of Solomon”), has been a sacred place for Muslims since ancient times, and now it also attracts a lot of pilgrims.
“For more than one and a half millennia, Sulaiman was a beacon for travellers revered as a sacred mountain. Its five peaks and slopes contain numerous ancient places of worship and caves with petroglyphs as well as two largely reconstructed 16th century mosques. One hundred and one sites with petroglyphs representing humans and animals as well as geometrical forms have been indexed in the property so far. The site numbers 17 places of worship, which are still in use, and many that are not. The cult sites are believed to provide cures for barrenness, headaches, and back pain and give the blessing of longevity. The site is believed to represent the most complete example of a sacred mountain anywhere in Central Asia, worshipped over several millennia.” (UNESCO World Heritage)
You can start your visit of Sulaiman-Too from a museum located in a big cave (the ticket costs 100 som which is around $1.50 usd), where you can learn a lot about the Sacred Mountain’s history. After that you might find it interesting to explore other caves, some will require you to have a flashlight and a bit of courage as narrow passages can awaken your imagination. Right at the top of the mountain you’ll be able to enjoy the view of the city and perhaps shoot a couple of nice photos. At the peak, a mosque might catch your attention, where locals come to pray.
Since ancient times Osh was famous for its bazaars and caravanserais.
“The bazaar in Osh is said to be 3000+ years old, was a famous trading point on the Silk Road, and is still in operation today! While you’re in the bazaar, you can just picture traders buying, selling, and haggling in the midst of a jungle of goods during Silk Road times as you do the same thing now in the 21st century. It’s an exciting stop to make during your travels and gives you the chance to try your hand at some friendly bargaining with bazaar sellers at a modern Silk Road stop.” (silkroadexplore.com)
Osh bazaar will take your breath away as soon as you see the beautiful handmade clothes, felt carpets, clay dishes, along with dried fruits and all kinds of nuts. You will be also surprised by the prices and quality of it, but do not forget to bargain to make the seller’s day. Osh bazaar stretches for about a kilometre along the river and is described in many guidebooks as one of the most colourful in all of Central Asia. Bring you bags, prepare your cash.
Three story yurts
The three story yurt is installed at the foot of Sulaiman-Too and was first built in 1995 to honour the 1000 year anniversary of the Kyrgyz epic, Manas. The yurt is now a museum dedicated to Kurmanjan Datka (“The Queen of the South”) and her husband, Alimbek Datka. Kurmanjan Datka was a stateswoman who initiated the annexation of that region to Russia and therefore is one of the most famous women in the history of Kyrgyzstan. The museum contains photos, clippings, household items, traditional clothes. The ticket cost: 50 som ($0.75 cents).
The city of Osh is also famous for its cuisine: plov, tandoor bread and large samsa (similar to samosa) made in tandoor as well. It’s not easy to make the perfect samsa as it requires the right tandoor (design, overall structure, installation and temperature).
Osh samsa is round, not triangular, and prepared exclusively by men. Traditionally only men roll up the elastic strands of dough into a round pancake to cook this delicious dish, known for more than 1500 years.
There are some rules which you need to follow when you eat Osh samsa: since the dish is very hot, you must first cut off the top of the samsa and use a spoon to eat the filling. Bon Appetite!
Take your time to explore the city, walk around, who knows what other beautiful things you will discover!