Freelance reporter and video producer based in Tashkent
TTM Contributor 100
Photos by Umida Akhmedova
Uloq is the Uzbek version of the famous Asian Buzkashi game. This tradition was spread in Central Asia and Afghanistan by Mongols with their cult of horsemen. The rules are simple: riders compete for a carcass of a goat or a young ram. The winner has to cross the finish line on horseback without allowing other riders to rob him of his prey. Like Buzkashi, Uloq is an extremely dangerous sport: 100 or more horsemen usually fight for a one carcass. Major Uloq games are usually held in the spring or autumn, when the Central Asian peoples traditionally celebrate their weddings, and is often played before the arrival of their main Spring festival, Nowruz. The official Uloq Federation of Uzbekistan conducts frequent tournements and competitions, bringing together up to 500 riders and thousands of spectators to watch the fast, intense sport.
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Photos and Text by Timur Karpov/Transterra Media
The Mugat are an ancient nomadic people living in Central Asia. Also known as the "Central Asian Gypsies", their lifestyle is similar to European Roma: they live in camps, migrate across countries, and begand recycle garbage for money. Many people in Uzbekistsan, a country with a significant Mugat population, believe the Mugat have magic powers and know secret curses.
Usually the Mugat never let cameramen inside their community and are warey of outsiders. This Mugat ceremony, called "Khatna-tuy", took place in a small city of Parkent, Uzbekistan. Mugat people from camps around Parkent gathered together to celebrate the circumcision of one of the boys from the community. As an Islamic people, circumcision is one of the most important events in the life of a Mugat man. On the day of his ceremony, he receives money and gifts from community, while guests enjoy cheap vodka, bowls of meat, and dancing.
These photos provide an inside look at the rituals of one of the most secretive peoples in one of the world's most secretive states.
Photos by Alexey Volosevich.
Moynaq used to be the biggest port on the Aral Sea, now the site of one of the biggest ecological disasters of the last half-century. Our contributor looks into the state of the sea, and the affect the sea's disappearance is having on a local population that once hosted a thriving fishing industry.
A boy escaping from the ceremony place.
Cars parked in front of the place of ceremony. Mugat are known for driving old Soviet cars, like those pictured here.
Guests also brings presents to the boy who is being circumcised. The gifts can be clothes, toys or just money.
The 9 year old boy who will be circumcised. The age of circumcision varies, but is usually performed before the boy hits puberty. The primary determining factor is the family's ability to gather money for the ceremony. Mugat tradition forbids photographing of the actual circumcision.
While dancing, Mugat wedding attendees put money in each other's headdresses. The money is meant to symbolize wealth. The tradition is an adaptation of a local Uzbek custom of throwing money at the dancers as a gift and allowing the children to collect the money. However, the Mugat are cautious of thieves and prefer to put the money directly into another person's headdress.
Children play on the streets of Moynaq, formerly the biggest port on the Aral. The former bed of the Aral Sea is full of toxic fertilizers. Winds carry them through the whole region, causing congenital diseases for many children in the area.
Fishermen arrive with their boat at Lake Sarybas, formerly a gulf of the Aral Sea. They fish despite icy water and frigid temperatures for what is left of the lake's fish.
Motorbikes are very popular in Moynaq due to their low fuel consumption.
Vladimir Zuev works as a guide, taking a few visitors a year around the Aral Sea and sharing with them his nostalgia for Soviet times. He is the only guide who can take visitors to the current shore of the Aral Sea. He uses an old Toyota SUV to cross the barren landscape where there are no longer any good roads.
A family marks the anniversary of the death of a family member in Moynaq. The family are ethnic Russians, but they invited their Korean and Karakalpak friends to share a traditional pilaf (plov).
A woman in Moynaq pumps water from a well. In recent years, the city has seen problems with their water supply. Groundwater levels have fallen and the remaining springs are not very suitable for drinking due to high concentrations of pesticides.
A monument to a ship is the centerpiece of Moynaq's Central Square. The city is now a very long and treacherous drive from the seaside.
What is left of the Aral Sea sits behind a row of hills, once formed below the pressure of its waters and the power of its tides.
The shore of the Aral Sea now sits over 180km from its former position, turning port cities into dusty trade towns without an industry of their own.
Abandoned ships sit in a row in the now arid bed of the disappearing Aral Sea. Presumably once docked together, they now stand as a monument to one of the greatest ecological disasters of the past half-century.
A pile of stones on Ustyurt plateau was at one time a shore marker used by fisherman to navigate.
In the Soviet era the Ustyurt plateau was used as a test site for biological and nuclear weapons. Now it's a place where oil and gas production are quickly developing.
Abandoned fishing ships lie on what used to be the bed of the Aral Sea. As recently as the 1980s, the annual catch of fish in the sea was around 60,000 tons.
Abandoned fishing ships lie on what used to be the bed of the Aral Sea, though the fish here are long dead. The bed of the sea resembles a strange desert, strewn with remnants of aquatic life.
Fishermen prepare their boat at Lake Sarybas.
Fishermen launch their boat into the shallow waters of Lake Sarybas in search of what is left of the precious fish that once thrived in the Aral Sea, a vital source of protein in the arid region left behind as the Sea dries up.
A monument to Berdakh, a national poet of the Karakalpak people stands in front of an abandoned cinema in Moynaq. During the Soviet era, Moynaq was a successful and rich seaport. One of the largest fish processing plants in Central Asia once brought the city enormous profits. Now, the seashore is 180 km away from the city.
Lake Sarybas was formerly a gulf of in Aral Sea. Since the 1960s the sea has lost over three-quarters of its surface, and has become the site of an ecological disaster.
Fishermen prepare their boat at Lake Sarybas in the dead of winter amid piercing wind. They wear rubberized clothes. Asked how they stood the chilling conditions they only said, "We have no choice, we need to live," before climbing into the boat.
Woman sell pumpkins at the Nukus city market. There are nearly 300.000 people living in the capital of the Karakalpakstan Republic. It's a part of Uzbekistan, but ethnic Karakalpaks are closer to Kazakhs with their own language and nomadic life style.
Day laborers wait for work at the Nukus city market. Their estimated daily earnings are around 3-5$. Unemployment is high. Each year, about 3.2 million people leave Uzbekistan in search of work, mostly in Russia.
An ancient fortress was once situation near the shore of the Aral Sea. From the 11th to 16th century this area belonged to the mighty empire of Khorezm. The Empire controlled a part of the Great Silk Road, but afterwards fell into decline and eventually became a vassal state of the Russian Empire.