Dirty, confusing Osh Bazaar…the commercial heart and soul of Bishkek

By Chinara Sultanalieva

Osh Bazaar is like another world inside Bishkek. It is an autonomous city with its own rules, streets and neighborhoods with their own unique characters and images. It is not very clean and is always noisy inside because of the mass of people who come here daily.  

Even though you can see how the bazaar could be ugly, you can also understand how much money you saved by shopping there, and you can taste the freshest fruits and vegetables, and see the most beautiful fabrics.

And as every city in the world, The Osh Bazaar has its own neighborhoods. These sections are divided by the kinds of items for sale. Cosmetics, washing powder, soap and other different things for house cleaning can be found in the south section of the Bazaar, next to the bridge.

In the section before crossing the bridge one can find endless rows of clothes and shoes. Here, some rows are dedicated for shoes, boots, sandals, etc. You will never be able to find any mixed row, with both shoes and clothes – it is just one of the rules.

The most attractive section for tourists is the one dedicated to national Kyrgyz souvenirs and handicrafts. Three rows plus another building with two floors sell hand-made products. The variety of goods will impress tourists who come here. There are lots of national clothes, hats, patchwork carpets and even shoes to be found here.

Moreover, the bazaar’s prices are the cheapest in Bishkek.  But at the bazaar, one should always remember that there is no exact prize for anything. The bazaar is not a shop. You can always bargain and reduce the sales price a minimum of 10 percent, and maybe even more.

The low-price policy together with the goal of lowering the price is also applicable to the groceries. Vegetables and fruits here are not only cheap, but also very tasty and fresh. Almost every market in the centre of the city and almost every café gets products here daily.

If your load of fruit and vegetables is so large so that you can’t hold things in your hands, Osh Bazaar gives you an option. You can hire a wheeled vehicle called a “tachka” and a man will push all your purchases in whatever direction you go in the bazaar.

Another part of the bazaar has rows dedicated to fabrics. The shelves are full of different materials for sewing, including various fabrics, Uzbek atlas and fabrics with oriental ornaments. Bright-colored atlas costumes, which every bride is supposed to wear, can be seen everywhere, even though Kyrgyz brides almost never wear a dress over trousers. But this tradition is still taking place in Dungan, Uzbek and Tajik families, and this style dress is still considered the most popular style of oriental fashion.

“You cannot leave Osh Bazaar until you take bread,” is another accepted rule of the Osh Bazaar. Here, “lepeshka” is much tastier than in any other place!

Evgenyi Gribkov, who visited Bishkek last summer, also thinks that Kyrgyz bread is the tastiest one. He has traveled a lot to many countries and visited different places, but the impression from Osh Bazaar is one of the most incredible one. “My friends from Bishkek always try to keep me away from Osh Bazaar, this just provoked my curiosity,” Gribkov said.

Once in the morning he escaped from the hotel and went to Osh Bazaar. He was shocked by the size of the place. It seemed to be very dirty and noisy inside. Having bought some fruits, Gribkov called one of his friends and asked to pick him up from here.

“I was waiting for my friend next to the bazaar, when I saw a little child eating hot lepeshka. A boy looked at me and smiled. I was trying to talk to him, but understood that he didn’t understand a word I said. I smiled too. Suddenly the child divided the lepeshka into two parts and gave one to me. I tasted it and it seemed to be the most delicious bread I have ever ate. I decided to give some money to the boy. He took a half of what I gave and run away. In two minutes a saw him with a pocket full of red apples.”

“Osh Bazaar showed me what Kyrgyz people are! That boy will always be in my mind, as well as the lepeshka and the red apples!” Gribkov added.


3 responses to “Dirty, confusing Osh Bazaar…the commercial heart and soul of Bishkek

  1. I really enjoyed the story at the last … it seemed to give the bizarre a real personality!

  2. I enjoyed this article very much. I agree, the best way visitors and foreigners can experience new cultures is to seek out the local exchange markets.

    Thank you for the information. I also must compliment you for such a well written piece.

  3. Interesting article as well as stunning photograph.

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