The second biggest city of Kyrgyzstan, Osh has an official status of "the southern capital city". Located in the Fergana valley at 900 meters above the sea level, Osh has always been a multicultural home to the different ethnic groups, lively bazaars, and various religious monuments. Osh allures tourists, who avoid Bishkek for its "westernness", with its authenticity. No wonder that Osh attracts more tourists, as it is the most ancient city in Kyrgyzstan. Differently from the rest of nomadic Kyrgyzstan, the residents of Osh had led a settled lifestyle. The combination of the warmer climate, settled lifestyle, older history and multi-ethnical background created a fusion of flavors that makes Osh very different from the northern brother, Bishkek. Here are the three reasons (among many) why tourists love so much Kyrgyzstan's oldest city Osh.
Archeologists can't agree on how old Osh actually is. The found artefacts are estimated to be 3000 years old. All the artefacts are kept in the Sulaiman Too Museum, which is located inside the mountain Sulaiman Too, right in the center of the city. However, the city of Osh was first time mentioned in the writings of the 9th century. However, even that makes Osh the oldest city in the territory of Kyrgyzstan. The trading city Osh was famous for its bazaars and caravan-sarays and was part of the Great Silk Road. For over two thousand years, the Osh Central Bazaar leads a loud, colorful life. With time only its constructions and extending borders are changing. Unfortunately, many buildings in Osh were destroyed by the Soviet government in the fight against religion. However, you can still find restored mosques and historical monuments, and the most iconic ones are located around the Sulaiman mountain, which is believed to be visited by Sulaiman (prophet Solomon) and is now an important pilgrimage destination for Muslim people.
Diverse ethnic groups have always lived in the Fergana valley, where Osh is located. Fifty percent of Osh's population consists of Uzbeks, and the rest are Kyrgyz, Roma, Tatars, Russians, Germans and other groups. The diversity is expressed in the crafts and cuisine of Osh. In fact, Osh is known as the best destination for food in Kyrgyzstan. In the Osh region, people grow a special kind of rice called dezire, which is used for cooking the perfect plov. Here, everyone eats out because it is super cheap and tasty even for Kyrgyz standards. People who own chaikhanas (tea houses with food) are families who transfer their knowledge from generation to generation, and even the smallest kid in the family is involved in the running of the chaikhana.
The climate in the Fergana valley is warmer than in the rest of Kyrgyzstan. There are also more sunny days in Osh than in Bishkek. The soil is generous, and it allows them to grow different kinds of fruits. Basically, the south provides all the rest of Kyrgyzstan with apricots, grapes, watermelons, peaches, cherries and many other fruits. As Osh is my home town, every time I go there I try to stuff my belly with as many fruits as possible because I know that I will not find this tasty and fresh fruits anywhere else. It gets pretty hot in Osh in the summer, when the temperature reaches up to 40 degrees. But paradoxically, people drink hot green tea, that I swear really helps to refresh in hot weather.
The reason why Osh has a status of the southern capital city of Kyrgyzstan is that it is the second biggest city, with 270 thousand inhabitants and it is rich with history, diverse cultures and hardworking people. You should definetly try to do these three things when you are in Osh: climb Sulaiman mountain, bargain in the bazaar when buying some fresh fruits, drink hot tea and eat some plov in chaikhana. These activities will make you fall in love with the oldest city of Kyrgyzstan.
Сover photo © credits: iStock/LUKASZ-NOWAK1
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