Pete Rognli, GlobeIn country manager in Kyrgyzstan, based in Bishkek, is always keeping his eyes and ears open for any potential opportunity to meet artisans - he has his camera ready to film artisan interviews wherever he's going and whatever he's doing! On one weekend in January Pete took a ski vacation in the village of Arslanbob, a picturesque small community in Kyrgyzstan surrounded by mountains and featuring a beautiful walnut grove, the largest on earth. That weekend Pete ended up making few artisan profiles for GlobeIn!
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Meeting artisans during a ski weekend in Kyrgyzstan
Arslanbob is a pretty near-idyllic small village, surrounded by snowy mountains and 1.6 million acres of walnut forest preserve that fuels the lion's share of the local economy. The local thriving Community Based Tourism (CBT) program and nice ski club inspired Pete to head up to Arslanbob for a relaxing ski weekend.
Community based tourism (CBT) - is a form of tourism where the local community has a substantial control over and involvement in its development and management, and a major proportion of the benefits remain within the community (definition by WWF).
The skiing community turned out to be famous for its walnut woodwork. Thanks to the abundant supply of local wood and the Uzbek culture of settlement (versus the nomadic traditions of Kyrgyz people), there is a strong history of woodworking in Arslanbob: the area is home to a few great carpenters and craftsmen.
Arslanbob is a made up mostly of Kyrgyzstan's ethnic Uzbek minority who originally populated this area. That's why the local spoken language is Uzbek. Much of the economy is walnut-dependent, and most economic activities consist around walnut harvesting and sales. Since agricultural production is completely seasonal, both sustainable tourism and the sale of local crafts have great potential to make a needed impact in Arslanbob.
There are few community based tourism programs in Kyrgysztan. Typically they offer such outdoor activities as horseback riding, trekking, yurt stays etc. Few years ago Hayat Tarikov, director of the Arslanbob CBT chapter and a true visionary, figured out it would be great to also offer winter adventure-style tours in the area, such as skiing and snowshoeing. Eventually this brought winter visitors to Arslanbob. Many local craftsmen and farmers now work as guides for the CBT program.
The pictures on the wall are of a weekly environmental awareness exhibition organized by CBT. The exhibition promotes the message "Keep Arslanbob Beautiful" by demonstrating pictures of the surrounding beauty.
Peter heading to the slope
Outdoor lunch with the group of skiers
Getting ready for skiing
Arslanbob CBT chapter accepts ski and gear donations to equip the local ski club that teaches skiing to kids
Hayat Tarikov did great job promoting and making a name for Arslanbob by weaving a story around the destination and encouraging travelers to tell their own stories from their visits - a quick Google search would yield quite a few blog entries accounting Westerners' adventures in Arslanbob.
It's no surprise that after a dozen of rides down the snowy slopes, Pete decided to make some interviews with artisans who turned out to be very cooperative and welcoming! Eventually he wrote GlobeIn profiles for Mashkur Turkeshev who makes traditional Uzbek mountain snowshoes and carpenters Ageluiov Xgoleaguu and Qiyas Ergashev.
Enjoying New Year's "lunch" with Arslanbob CBT guides.
Climbing up the hill
Tourist information office in Arslanbob
Carpenter Ageluiov Xgoleaguu, who is also a guide at CBT, kindly invited Pete for a cup of tea at his house