Tuesday, March 22, 2011

3.2. Nauryz festival; meeting Mara; qurt

Sandra. Camel.
Mara, Sandra, Timur, Daniel, Eugene
Timur looking for extraterrestrial life in a yurt

Post by Eugene Moon; Photos by Sandra Powers and Daniel Corral

After we went to our hotel to change and rest a little, we went to the Old Square, where they were holding festivities for the Nauryz festival. We arrived at the square and crowds of people were in attendance, listening and dancing to Kazakh pop songs, eating free food from the vendor, and riding horses. We met with Mara, director of the festival---a boisterous and friendly woman. She gave us a tour of the festival and told us the origins of Nauryz. The holiday, Nauryz (different from the Persian Nowruz), was created by Turkic people as a new year event to celebrate the arrival of spring. She showed us the inside of a yurt display, demonstrating what Nomadic life was like. It was a very large yurt, and could have been a nobleman's yurt, and there was a lot of fabric, furniture, and belongings. Although the display was not made of felt, we were out of the cold for a while. We kept on walking and saw a falconer with an eagle perched on his arm. It was wearing a helmet that covered its eyes. The helmet, according to Mara, is worn to protect visitors, because the bird is only comfortable with the owner and if it were to see a stranger, it would attack in self defense. It was fascinating to see it flap and spreads its wings while the falconer walked away blending with the crowd, while the wings were visible until it disappeared, as if from some movie or a dream. As we departed, Timur suggested that we try qurt, a type of cheese that contains a lot of calcium. It tasted sour and tangy. I have to say, it is funkier than the taste of dolmas, and I like the flavor of both. Mara kindly bought each of us the qurt balls.

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