Yurt’s decoration – practical, colorful and comfortable

Yurt Tor

The inside of the yurt is divided into the modules; each of them, according to the tradition, has its own domestic function. Space near the door is called bosaga “босага” (threshold); it’s the sacral border between home and the outside world. The sacral center is “отау”, “otau”, “(fireplace). It’s the symbol of family happiness and was considered by Kazakhs as the holy place of their home. In front of the entrance, behind the fireplace, there was the place of honor (“төр”) for guests, honored people, and the elders of the family. It was the symbol of glory and wealth. The place of building family moorings marks the place that has “the most cultural value.” There is a Kazakh’s saying “Есіктен кipin, төрге озба” (“Don’t rush to the place of honor after you entered the house”), which means “know your place.”

yurt interior

Yurt interior layout

The best felt and woven carpets were put at the place of honor to create a beautiful background. Different kinds of trunks (“жагланы”), felt suitcases, blankets and pillows for guests, carpets, and other everyday objects were placed on the stand (“жукаяк”). “Жастық ағаш” is the wooden stand for the pillow by a bed-side. Colorful patchwork wool quilts (“қурақ көрпе”) that cover over felt carpets and bedding bring color and coziness to the interior decoration.

yurt carpets

To the right from the entrance, there is a female half of the yurt that was intended for placing different objects for household purposes, such as food supplies, tableware, and other utensils. “Кереге” was used to hang out jerked beef. A leather jar for koumiss (“саба”) on the wooden stand was placed nearby. Dressers (“асадалы”) and bins (“кебеже”) for storing food and products (tea, sugar, sweets) were placed there as well. A thrifty housewife could always find something to offer to the guests. Such a trait of Kazakh hospitality is an homage to the nomad’s tradition. Even the best goods in the house were stored as gifts to the guests in order to properly see them off. That corner ofter was separated by the screen made from Achnatherum.

Kazakh yurt

To the left from the threshold, there as a male half of the yurt; the symbol of male origin. The symbols of a hunt, prey, and luck were kept there, such as horse harness, service and hunting weapons. During the winter, in times of cold weather, a weak or prematurely born lamb or another weak animal could be put there. To the right from the door, between the place of honor and the threshold, there is a place for old men and kids.

kazakh yurt

To the right of the entrance, closer to the place of honor, there is a place for newlyweds (if they didn’t separate from the parents). A wooden bed (“шымылдық”) decorated with engraving and separated by the curtain brings special colorfulness to yurt’s interior. If only one family was living in the yurt, that place was empty. Covered with felt or woolen carpets it serves as the place of rest during the daytime for the family members. Between the beds and the place of honor there are poles or racks (адалбақан) with the clothes hang on them. Hanging bags (goods storages, weathercocks) are thrown upon the heads of “кереге” at the left and the right side of the entrance. At the latticed wall, next to the bed, the carpets are stretched encrusted with felt, made of cloth, with embroidery pattern. Plated colorful figures made from cloth, silk or cotton fabric are sewed on the base of the goods.

Tus kiyiz

One of the most widespread and favorite types of Kazakh arts and crafts is embroidery in chain-stitch (“бізкесте”). It’s widely used even nowadays (in velvet, fine cloth for felt winter wall carpets – “тұс киіз”, pillows – “кестелі жастық”, towels, tablecloth, napkins, etc). The museum collection contains the rich tuskiiz (wall carpets) decorated with rich cloth, embedding, and rich embroidery. At the edges, the carpet is trimmed with a twisted lace. The embroidery in chain-stitch, satin-stitch, and golden-stitch brings special elegance and richness to the tuskiiz. An n-section frame is a typical element of the tuskiiz.

Tekemet

Varieties of carpets are represented in yurt’s interior along with the traditional antique carpets, such as “текемет”, “сырмақ” and “алаша”. There are felt carpets for floors and walls, woven carpets noticeable for its outlandishness, special coloring, and decor. For Kazakhs, the most expensive carpet was “текемет”. People were judging the wealth of the yurt’s owner by that carpet. In the past, the felt carpet with the blurred pattern in blue, golden-yellow, red or natural wool color (white or brown) was one of the main elements of the bride’s dowry.

Tuz Kiyiz

The felt carpet syrmak or shyrdak (“сырмак”) falls into four categories depending on its size. The biggest carpet “көш сырмақ” is 3 by 5 meters in dimensions; the second type “төсеніш сырмақ” is 3 by 3,5 meters; the third type “төр сырмақ” is 2 by 5 meters; the fourth type “төсек сырмақ” is 2 by 2,5 meters. In terms of color, the Kazakh carpets also fall into four  categories: “ақ сырмақ”, “қарала сырмақ”, “жиекті сырмақ”, “дебіске сырмақ”. “Қарала сырмақ” is the most widespread type of the carpet; in order to make it, cut pattern figures of puffy white and black felt are sewed together. The edges between rosettes and borders are sewed with the lace line made from the multicolored wool. Altogether it looks like an item of high-quality. The most popular type of “сырмак” is “бітпес” (inexhaustible). It symbolizes the idea of the world’s infinity.

Read my previous post about carpet manufacturing process

Syrmak

There are metal lamps in the yurt. The most original one is a ceiling lamp “шырақ” that is hanged from the yurt’s ceiling. Processed leather of different animals served as the yurt’s decoration.

Asadal

Despite a nomadic way of life, Kazakhs were using wooden furniture. Craftsmen cut simple in its form and few in its number tablecloth from a single piece of the wood. Most often they didn’t have any decorative engraving, which probably was due to their nomadic way of life. The furniture was comfortable, practical and suitable for nomadic life. Such furniture as “асадал”, “кебеже”, “жүк аяқ” (a stand for trunks) can be seen in the modern interior. “Asadal” is similar to a jam cupboard for storing products and tablecloth. It has four legs and a shelf between them. The upper part of the stack was made as a drawer with a lock. “Кебеже” is a bin for products. Front parts of it were encrusted with die and metal panels. Plated panels were used to decorate a whisk (“nicneк”) for whipping mare’s milk and big bowls (“шара – тегене”) for koumiss. Wood engraving goes well together with the incrustation with dice. Horse or camel bones, jaws, and ribs were used for that matter. Horns of wild rams, saiga, and bulls were widely spread as well. They were used in the production of snuff-boxes, bowls, scoops. In the process of encrustation of furniture, tablecloth and music instruments, figured panels with raised pattern were used.

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The left side of the yurt next to the entrance is for toilet articles. A copper basin and a jug for washing procedures were located there. The process of ablution is a ceremony common for Muslims. Next to the yurt located in nature Kazakhs left a saddle. They put the robe made from horsehair around the base of the yurt to protect it from the insects and snakes. Not far from the yurt a place for preparing food in the summer time was located. Circle-shape stands for pots (“қазан – ошақ”), a tripod with a hanging teapot (мосы), a mortar, and other household stuff could be found there.KazanThe yurt adjusted to the nomad way of life complied with all the requirements of the nomadic life. It’s mobile, can be easily taken apart and quickly set up on a new side.

I hope you learned something new today.

Sao bol

Kochevnik




  • F Prodigy

    What advice would you have to someone who is in Atyrau today shopping to decorate a Kazakh yurt that has been in North America a generation? My yurt is 6 meters. My achnatherum is already patterned. In particular I’m considering yurt bands as they may be easier to pack on the plane than carpets. Are some of these bands locally called qizil basqur and aq basqur?

    • Hello,
      I am sorry for late reply. Where is your yurt located? I don’t know anyone in Atyrau unfortunately. I am also looking for bands and other decoration elements. If you use FB, visit my page https://www.facebook.com/truekochevnik/. This is the best way to contact me.

    • Hello. Sorry for late reply. Are you still in Atyrau?

      • F Prodigy

        Greetings Vlad,

        Late reply to a late reply! No, my brother has left Atyrau. I am on hold erecting my yurt for the time being. The new site is windy compared to where the yurt had been. 65 KPH gusts when it is not stormy. It’s near the edge of a canyon. Please see the photo.

        I am trying to take every precaution, while also using traditional and functional decorations. I am going to have to reinforce the yurt to help resist the wind.
        The yurt sets up atop a lumber platform, which is plenty sturdy. I plan to build a 2 meter tall wind wall partially around the yurt a short distance away from its circumference. That will be my first project.

        I plan to use forty or more D rings with cord to secure the kerege to the platform. The felts are covered with a Groovy Yurts canvas outer cover, similar to your recent post, and banded with bulk nylon seat belt webbing. The fit isn’t the greatest, but it is what we used in the past for the rain. Beside the two Tundik bau attached to the Shanyrak, I plan to implement nylon straps with carabiners when stormy.

        The traditional bands for use around the wooden elements are what I need to source. My yurt had been previously set up without bands. At the former location, the winds never exceeded 65 KPH and gusts were mellow. I noticed your yurt was initially erected without these bands, too. I am using the Karakalpak terms of qizil basqur and aq basqur as I am not familiar with the proper Kazakh terms (perhaps they are the same). When these bands are used, they would be visible from the inside of a fully erected yurt, as in some of the photos in this article. The function is to strengthen the roof assembly at the pole bends, by compression. (Supplementing other narrow bands used to resist torsional forces). I have not been able to locate traditional woven bands of sufficient width that are 20 meters long. I have been considering 100% silk ikat fabrics from Uzbekistan as an alternate. What do you think?

        Cheers,
        md

        • Wow. Fascinating view. I am also impressed with your knowledge of the turkic yurt construction and parts. I am still learning.

          Wind is something I just started to think about. I attached some L brackets to the platform and tied some rope to kerege, but after reading some horror stories, I am considering some earth anchors. I am in a quite sheltered location, but don’t want to push my luck. Especially in winter.

          I am still struggling with water protection. I am still drying my shyrdak from the last rain. I made a skirt yesterday that should address this issue, but I am planing to get a proper cover before winter. Can you send me a picture of Groovy Yurts cover? How much did it cost? I need to move fairly fast in finding the right protection.

          The I also need to get the tunduk bao (I will find other names for it.) I used it during the installation, but then used them to secure uyks. I know they play important role during the windy weather. Kazakhs connected heavy rocks to them during strong winds. Where do you plan to connect the nylon ropes? Directly to the platform?

          When you say you are looking for “traditional bands for use around the wooden elements” what are you referring to? The one above kerege? (see picture). I have narrow one to secure uyks and a wide one for decoration.

          I think the ones that you are referring to are TIZBE (the one that connects uyks) and the ones goint to shanyrak are called ZHEL BAU

          I don’t think it’s a good idea to get a 20m Tizbe. It would be a nighmare to install. I would rather recommend to get 3 or four shorter ones. Keep in mind that you will need more than 20 m since they weave around.

          Uzbek silk is a good choice, however, I am considering to order some baskurs from Kyrgyzstan and you can piggy back on the order.

          I am very interested in your journey and would like to get your personal contact info. Please email me on FB or info@kochevnik.ca

          Thank you.

          • Tizbe

          • F Prodigy

            Hi Vlad,
            Here are three photos of my yurt before and during take down. I have to edit the text offline (again), so that may take me a bit.
            md

          • F Prodigy

            The first photo shows my yurt with the Groovy Yurts outer cover (brezent), clear vinyl top (urgh) and some of a house wrap layer visible above the door. This is Lowe’s brand house wrap. I will not use this again and want to try Typar instead.

            The second photo shows my uyks and shanyrak. One of two zhel bau is seen hanging. This piece is woven wool, about 100mm wide and about 4 meters long with a sewn-in loop on one end securing it to the shanyrak.

            The third photo is taken of the shii and bends of uyks. I had no tizbe, but many 100-200mm wide bands wrapped around uyk in a similar fashion to tizbe. My zhel baus were wrapped. I did not realize the bands attached to tuyrlyk are extended and not wrapped like tizbe, so I’m changing that. Note the embroidery at the top of the tuyrlyk. This may be what I have instead of and aq basqur. Also note there is no wide band outside the bends, where a kizil baskur would belong. I learned of the use of this band from a YouTube about Kyrgyz yurts, where it is called a qizil basqur. In that YouTube, the uyks flop around somewhat at first, then a qizil basqur girdles them in, then tizbe helps align them. At that point, the uyks are much more stable and solid. An aq basqur placement dresses it all up.

          • Fantastic read. I will be making a yurt vocabulary soon and would love to have your input. For those on Facebook, I just posted some ribbons for sale for my friends from Kyrgyzstan. https://www.facebook.com/umaicuriosity/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1824713441090963