In the sleepy village of Ulupamir in the Erciş district of the southeastern Turkish province of Van, an ancient symbol of Central Asian nomadic culture is getting a lot of attention from local photographers and tourists.
Erected in Ulupamir village, a “yurt” (Turkic for “tent”) or “otağ” in Turkish has been set up to celebrate Kyrgyz culture and bring tourists to this quiet corner of Turkey. Used for centuries by ancient nomads in Central Asia, including Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, the replication of one of these large nomadic dwellings represents the migratory plights of modern-day Kyrgyz people who fled the Pamir Mountains of Afghanistan for northeastern Turkey in the 1980s due to harsh weather conditions and disease. Settling in the small village of Ulupamir with the help of then-Turkish President Kenan Evren in 1982, they went on to erect the iconic tents which came to represent the Kyrgyz community in the small pocket of Van. These large nomadic dwellings, used for centuries by the people of Kyrgyzstan, are still a source of trade in the country and are now helping to boost the tourism industry of Van by attracting local and foreign tourists alike.
The large nomadic dwellings, used for centuries by the people of Kyrgyzstan, are still a source of trade in the country and are now helping to boost the tourism industry of Van by attracting local and foreign tourists alike.
One of the villagers spoke to Anadolu Agency about life in Ulupamir, where the Kyrgyz host curious guests in a large tent surrounded by horses in the center of the village. Villager Kenan Aytaç said the Kyrgyz people living there not only work to promote their ancient culture but also to contribute to the economy of Van’s Erciş district.
Aytaç said: “I produce some works that have old motifs here in this tent, including clothes for TV series and for special events in universities. Furthermore, we receive orders for these nomadic tents from cities across Turkey and abroad. We are aware that we have a responsibility to promote our culture in [Turkish] society. So, we are doing our best to assist tourists while showing them traditional Kyrgyz hospitality through sharing food and drinks with them and showing them a classic example of cultural and religious tolerance. We look forward to seeing more people here in Erciş,” he said.
In addition, President of the Van Photographer Association Tayfun Çiftçi, who also visited the tent, said their goal is to promote the village of Ulupamir and contribute to tourism in the region.
Detailing his own experience while visiting the village, Çiftçi indicated that he felt close to Kyrgyz culture, saying: “Kyrgyz culture can be seen in the district of Erciş in Van. Obviously, we live in a visual world. Those who see the presence of this culture when we share the photos on social media will continue coming here.”
Another visitor, lawyer and Ankara resident Dilek Uyar, said she traveled to the village while pursuing her long-time interest in photography, noting: “Despite the harsh winter conditions, I came here to experience the beauty of these tents firsthand. I received a very warm welcome upon arriving here and observed people opening their doors and hearts, always offering something to us while encouraging delightful conversations,” she said.