A cultural center Rukh Ordo is an exhibition venue located on the shore of Issyk-Kul Lake in the city of Cholpon-Ata. The complex includes 10 mini-museums about religions and Kyrgyz culture, dozens of sculptures and hundreds of paintings. Rukh Ordo, which literally translated from Kyrgyz means "the spirits' center", is a one of a kind gallery in Kyrgyzstan with a seemingly random collection of artifacts gathered in the serenity of Issyk-Kul Lake. Although some visitors consider it kitschy and even absurd place, everybody finds it calming, beautiful, entertaining and definitely worth visiting. It is the main attraction to visit for anyone into culture.
I did my first job in this very center when I was 18 years old. I was one of the quarto-lingual guides, who walked with the visitors introducing the exhibits in Kyrgyz, Russian, Turkish and English. We had a 3-month training about the exhibits before we could have our first tour. So, writing this article makes me a little bit nostalgic about sweet old days. The founder of the center was a political-social public figure Tashkul Kereksizov. A very powerful man during the authority of the first president, he is a very interesting persona with an aura of mystery. His name is literally translated from Kyrgyz as "abandoned and unwanted". The legend has it that when he was left as an infant in the orphanage, the nurses gave him this completely made-up name. Despite being an orphan, he was able to climb up the social stairs, get rich and become an influential politician and Maecenas. But one thing I can state with confidence is that he had a huge interest in developing the culture in Kyrgyzstan. Besides Rukh Ordo, he also built Aalam Ordo, a similar cultural center on the south shore of the Issyk-Kul Lake, supported a famous writer Chyngyz Aitmatov and always promoted the cultural values of all religions.
So, Tashkul Kereksizov collected the exhibits that he found inspiring and iconic for humanity's, and particularly Kyrgyzstan's, culture. There are five chapels of different religions that are spread on the territory of Kyrgyzstan: Buddhism, Islam, Orthodoxy and Catholicism, and Judaism. Although the interiors of the chapels are different, the exteriors are similar, suggesting that all the religions are equally important and valuable. Also, here, you can find the house of Chyngyz Aitmatov (the most well-known Kyrgyz writer), the arbor of "a 20th-century Herodotus" Sayakbai Karalaev (a great Manaschi orator who tells a Kyrgyz legend "Manas" in an improvised way), a mini Kyrgyz village with yurtas, the most beautiful pier on Issyk-Kul Lake, and much more. The entrance fee costs 400 soms (around 5 euros) and comes with a tour guide. Tipping the guides is welcomed. The tour takes around one hour, after which you are free to explore the center on your own. As I mentioned before, the center has a serene calm beauty proper for a meditation. Many government-level events (meetings with foreign presidents, international conferences) takes place on its territory. It is right in the center of Cholpon-Ata and is very popular during the summers.
The characters from main Kyrgyz legends, fairytales, literature neighboring with the world scientists, prophets, writers and presidents make up the spirits of the Rukh Ordo cultural attraction. But don't worry, you will only be haunted by knowledge and passion. From the very first step in the center, visitors get a pacifying feeling caused by a tranquil view of Issyk-Kul Lake and thrill by a view of the majestic mountains on the other side. What started as a personal collection of a visionary man is now available to be shared with the world, and his legacy won't float away in Lethe as long as visitors keep coming to Rukh Ordo.
Did you like the travel story?
Get more! Subscribe to our monthly inspiration newsletter.