Yurt – tradition which last for centuries


A yurt, a traditional mobile home of nomads, is well-known to all inhabitants of the prairies and highlands of Central Asia. Therefore, it is not rare that you come across yurts when you travel around Kyrgyzstan, too.

Although today, most Kyrgyz families live in regular houses, they still use yurts during spring and summertime when they take their cattle out into the fields. Being one of the most illustrious atributes of the Kyrgyz nomadic cultural heritage, yurts fascinate all foreigners who see them for the first time. Grey and white marquees scattered all over fertile valleys of Asia’s second highest mountain range, yurts are a surprisingly efficient type of accommodation. Collapsible, spacious and cosy at high and low temperatures, they indubitably dominate over contemporary tents when it comes to choosing a home solution during grazing season.

An average yurt is a round one-story tent-like house, which is about 6 meters (20 feet) in diameter and 2.5 meters (8 feet) high, topped with a round aperture for ventilation purposes. It serves as home to the entire family, which usually consists of 6-7 members. A yurt consists of two main parts, i.e. a wooden or, occasionally, metal framework and a woolen tent. It usually takes about a month to build up the cage, while the tent requires a significantly larger amount of time. Taking into account that all production stages are strictly divided between men and women of a single family or a community, it may take from three months to a year to build a new yurt.

Tourist helping local family to build up the yurt. Photo by Project Sayakat

Building a frame is always men’s work. Women undertake for the outer part. The tent is made of sheep or camel wool, felted with the help of hot water and a special rolling pin. Its thickness and solitidy provide for water fastness and warmth. The interior is often decorated with embroidered plaids, coverlets, belts, or tailed pendants.

While it is beddings or matresses that lie along the perimeter, the center of each yurt is always intended for dining and/or a small stove to heat the premise on cold days and nights.

Tunduk keeps the yurt together. Photo by Project Sayakat.

It might be hard to believe, but such thing as a full-scale industrial production of yurts does not exist. At least here, in Kyrgyzstan. All yurts are made by hand just like a thousand years ago. It is always possible to order one from a yurt master. Depending on its size, adornment, and materials used, an average yurt costs between 3,000 and 10,000 US dollars.

Undoubtedly, yurts have firmly stepped into the 21st century. And although they still look like their ancestors, do not let a view of a solar panel on a yurt’s roof surprise you. Obviously, contemporary yurts make up a nice blend of the old and the new.

(Article written by Stanislav Ivaschenko)