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Meeting artisans during a ski weekend in Kyrgyzstan

Meeting artisans during a ski weekend in Kyrgyzstan

by Galina Shmeleva
February 14, 2013

 

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.

Meeting artisans during a ski weekend in Kyrgyzstan

Arslanbob

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.

Meeting artisans during a ski weekend in Kyrgyzstan

Walnut Pot made by Arslanbob artisan QiyasErgashev

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.

 Meeting artisans during a ski weekend in Kyrgyzstan

Local SUV

Meeting artisans during a ski weekend in Kyrgyzstan

 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.

  

Meeting artisans during a ski weekend in Kyrgyzstan

Peter heading to the slope

Meeting artisans during a ski weekend in Kyrgyzstan

Outdoor lunch with the group of skiers

 Meeting artisans during a ski weekend in Kyrgyzstan

Getting ready for skiing

Meeting artisans during a ski weekend in Kyrgyzstan

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

Meeting artisans during a ski weekend in Kyrgyzstan  

Enjoying New Year's "lunch" with Arslanbob CBT guides.

 Meeting artisans during a ski weekend in Kyrgyzstan

Climbing up the hill

 Meeting artisans during a ski weekend in Kyrgyzstan

Tourist information office in Arslanbob 

 Meeting artisans during a ski weekend in Kyrgyzstan

 Carpenter Ageluiov Xgoleaguu, who is also a guide at CBT, kindly invited Pete for a cup of tea at his house