'If Genghis Khan were alive, he would be here.' These words kicked off the 2016 World Nomad Games: Kyrgyzstan's celebration of traditional nomadic sports and culture, and Central Asia's biggest sporting event.
A cool breeze rustles leaves overhead as families call out to one another through the woods, punctuated by the quiet sound of walnuts dropping to the forest floor. These are the forests of Arslanbob, an uncommon landscape in a country more famous for being 90% mountainous. And for two months each fall, these forests also become the social and economic heart of Arslanbob, as villagers move to the forests en masse.
The Tien Shan Mountains steal the breath from your lungs. It isn't just the height of this range shaped by the flow of melting glaciers, nor even the spectacle of their summits streaked by crystal sunlight; rather, it's the spine-tingling knowledge that here, you stand encircled by Kyrgyzstan’s 'celestial mountains', in the most landlocked place on Earth.