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Traversing Islamic travel destinations: Kyrgyzstan

Sameera Casmod | sameerac@radioislam.co.za
20 December 2023 | 11:12 a.m. CAT
2-min read

Kyrgyzstan offers breathtaking views and opportunities for trekking, mountaineering, and skiing. Picture: Travel Lemming

In this enchanting chapter of Traversing Islamic Travel Destinations, we embark on a journey through the heart of Central Asia to explore the captivating tapestry of Kyrgyzstan. Nestled between the embrace of Kazakhstan to the northwest, China to the east and south, and Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to the south and west, Kyrgyzstan is a country where mountainous realms play guardian to its borders, painting a landscape that resonates with awe-inspiring beauty.

Here, amidst the cradle of ancient shepherding traditions, Kyrgyzstan unfolds its story through the majesty of its mountains, the echo of millennia-old hospitality, and a rich tapestry woven with the threads of history and tradition. Bishkek, the capital, stands as Central Asia’s verdant gem, cradling the narratives of a nation within its embrace.

With a population of around 7 million, where 90% are Muslim, Kyrgyzstan’s introduction to Islam began seven centuries ago.

While there are no direct flights to Bishkek, travellers can fly from South Africa via Dubai, Turkey, or Qatar. Time spent in the air is approximately 12 hours, depending on the route. Flight prices range from about R17 000 in April to R30 000 in December.

Kyrgyz and Russian are the languages spoken in Kyrgyzstan, which gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

The country’s pulse beats in harmony with its stunning mountain ranges, where perpetual snow and ice adorn the towering peaks, offering vistas that beckon trekkers, mountaineers, and skiers alike.

Issyk Kul, the ‘hot lake,’ stands as a national treasure, a testament to Kyrgyz pride. Amidst glacier-type lakes and nature reserves, Kyrgyzstan shelters the second largest population of snow leopards, while woodlands cradle the elusive brown bear, lynx, gray wolf, and the enchanting ermine.

In the embrace of Kyrgyzstan’s valleys, the contrast of hot dry summers and freezing winters defines the rhythm of nature. Yet, the golden months of June, July, and August invite wanderers to explore the cooler mountainous havens, offering a perfect backdrop for outdoor adventures.

The symphony of Kyrgyz cuisine, a harmonious blend of influences from neighbouring lands and the nomadic spirit, resonates in dishes such as the hearty beshbarmak.

A soft drink is priced at 56 som (equivalent to R12) and a mid-range restaurant meal for two around R400. The som, in circulation since 1993, offers travellers nearly 5 som for every South African Rand.

For Muslim travellers, the abundance of halal food and the country’s budget-friendly allure make Kyrgyzstan an inviting destination. Accommodation, from guesthouses starting at R500 a night for two, to the allure of the Gorge Chunkurchak resort at R2800 a night during the summer, provides a diverse range of options.

With over 2000 masjids and hotels offering musallahs, Kyrgyzstan offers a great escape for Muslim travellers.

As the winding roads of Kyrgyzstan invite those seeking a unique travel experience, we extend an invitation to share your tales of this mystical land or your aspirations to traverse its majestic landscapes. Kyrgyzstan, a jewel in the crown of Islamic travel destinations, awaits the footsteps of the curious traveller.

Listen to the full feature on Sabaahul Muslim with Moulana Habib Bobat.

 

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