Birds of Prey festival in Kyrgyzstan
10 August 2019
The Birds of Prey festival is held every year in Kyrgyzstan at the beginning of August, near Issyk-Kul Lake, and is an excellent opportunity to learn more about country's traditions, watching dances, horse games and demonstrations of hunting by eagle.
ABOUT BIRDS OF PREY FESTIVAL IN KYRGYZSTAN
The Birds of Prey Festival takes place every year at the beginning of August in Kyrgyzstan at Jaichy tented camp, along the southern shore of Lake Issyk-Kul, not far from the village of Kok-Sai and about 4 hours drive from Bishkek.
The event is an excellent opportunity to learn more about Kyrgyz culture and the traditions of local people, through dances, games in which tourists can participate, horse games and demonstration of hunting by eagle (hence the name of the festival). The event starts in the morning around ten and lasts until late afternoon. During the lunch break, there is the opportunity to taste various traditional Kyrgyz dishes.
If you are not lucky enough to be in the area of Temir-Kanat / Kok-Sai on the day the festival, you may get there starting very early in the morning from Bishkek. Buses and collective taxis are organized, alternatively, considering the modest cost, a private taxi will be fine as well. If you are instead in Kyrgyzstan on a package tour, the tour operator will organize the needed transfers.
Now let's see some Birds of Prey Festival photos taken during our visit...
The Birds of Prey Festival poster
, 2019 edition.
The festival starts in the morning with some Kyrgyz music
and dances where the dancers perform in their traditional costumes
Of course, there are performances by singers showing traditional Kyrgyz musical instruments
and wearing typical clothing, including the traditional white felt hat (ak kalpak).
This performance is quite complex and consists of shooting with the bow
from some extreme position, obviously making sure to hit the target and not the spectators (who in any case are temporarily moved elsewhere...)
The heart of the Birds of Prey festival, as the name of the event suggests, are the performances with hunting eagles, a tradition from most of Central Asia and therefore also from Kyrgyzstan.
Properly trained eagles are in fact "thrown" in search of prey, mainly rabbits, which they will capture on behalf of their owners. To train an eagle for this purpose, it's not a simple task: it starts when the eagle is very young, letting the animal to get used to share everything with its owner, including meals. A real symbiosis develops among the eagle and the owner.
During the festival it's possible to observe hunting scenes with the eagle capturing a prey, as we will soon see.
For some games, tourists are also involved. In this game some pairs of volunteers are composed: the man receives a roll of toilet paper with which he has to compose a suit directly on the body of the woman in 3 minutes. The pair with the most beautiful dress wins the game.
A very rapid demonstration is then made on how to mount a yurt
, the traditional house of the nomads in Central Asia. This team of 7 taken only 11 minutes.
The festival continues with various horse games
. In this traditional Kyrgyz horse game
, the jockey must collect a bag full of coins from the ground while the horse is galloping fast.
In this game on horseback
the jockey proposes himself to the woman he loves, kissing her from the running horse.
In this other game on horseback, two fighters challenge each other: who is thrown off his horse, lose.
The Birds of Prey festival continues with a demonstration of hunting by eagle
, for which Central Asia is quite well known. Once it was usual to make the demonstration using live preys, but given the excessive cruelty of the scene, it was later decided to use just a stuffed animal dragged by a horse to simulate its movement.
is thrown in the sky from its owner and, after having circled for a while, the animal finally identifies the prey, onto which it dives quickly.
The eagle does not fly away the prey, but waits for its owner to come in order to share the food with him, exactly as learned when trained.
This Kyrgyz horse game
is a little cruel, as players have to make goal with a goat carcass
. In essence, two teams made up of various players compete for the goat's carcass, which must be collected from the ground, before rushing it to the "door" (which consists of three large stacked tires) and throwing it inside. The team that manages to collect more goals, wins.
The Birds of Prey festival ends with a dance
where visitors and tourists can participate.
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Kyrgyzstan travel guide
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