Sunday, May 27, 2012

Stay in a real Yurt

Arriving at the Ayaz Qala Yurt Camp at dusk with the Sultanuvaysdag mountains backlit by the setting desert sun glowing a fiery red is particularly spectacular

The Yurt is a traditional transportable home for the nomadic turkic peoples of the steepe of Central Asia. In Karakalpak Yurta are known as qara u'y. In Russian the structure is called "yurta" (юрта), whence the word came into English.

Yurts are very ancient first appearing in the Late Bronze Age XII-IX centuries BC. Yurts vary with different sizes, and relative weights. They can be assembled or disassembled easily and be carried compactly on camels or horses and be rebuilt on another site. Complete construction takes around 2 hours.

Traditional Yurts consist of an expanding wooden circular frame carrying a felt cover. The wood frame is bent to shape using steam. The structure of the Yurt comprises a crown or compression wheel, supported by roof ribs which are bent down at the end where they meet the lattice wall. The top of the wall is prevented from spreading by means of a tension band which opposes the force of the roof ribs. The structure is usually covered by layers of fabric and sheep's wool felt for insulation and weatherproofing.

The inside of most Yurts feature a central fireplace or stove, with the smoke venting out of the crown of the structure. Families also traditionally use ornate wooden chests to store their cookware, clothing and bedding. Raised wooden platforms give the residents a place to sit or lay down. The traditional decoration within a yurt is primarily pattern based. These patterns are generally repeating geometric patterns. All patterns can be found among not only the yurts themselves, but also on embroidery, furniture, doors, and other objects within the Yurt. Yurts can be surprisingly warm during the harsh winter months; during the hot summers, flaps in the felt are lifted to allow breezes inside, cooling the interior

In Karakalpakstan one of the best places to experience living in a Yurt is at the Camping ground of Ayaz-Kala in the Elikkalinsk (“50 forts”) district of Karakalpakstan. The Yurt camp is located 25 kilometers to the nearest town Buston and around 150 kilometers from Nukus. It can also be accessed from Urgench via Biruniysky pontoon bridge across the Amu Darya River (Distance 70Km).

The camp is set amongst picturesque hills of the steppe at an elevation 30-40 meters above the plain, near the ruins of an ancient fortress Ayaz-Kala(IV-II centuries BC) and opens up onto the Sultanuaizdaga ridge on the one side and onto Lake Ayaz-kul on the other. The interior furnishing of residential Yurts at the camp consists of thick cotton mattress used both as both beds and seats, there are also copper jugs with water for washing. Each tent can accommodate from 20 to 25 people. There are 2 shower rooms and 2 restrooms not far from the guest yurts. A separate yurt is used as a dining room where guests can gather for a meal with a separate kitchen where meals are cooked on the hearth.

You can combine a stay at Ayaz-kala with a tour of the ruins of ancient fortresses Ayaz-Kala or to the many nearby Kala's including a rare Zoroastrian Tower of Silence. They also have camels for a ride in the desert or even a trip on a motorboat on Lake Ayaz Kul.

When you're a guest at Yurt Camp Ayaz-Kala you're offered the best of everything ... from the traditional blankets to the vodka! Musicians from the local village organise performances around the evening camp fire... staying in a Yurt is a really great way to experience Karakalpakstan.