‘Not enough work, not enough money’: can this Kyrgyz village survive without tourists? A picture essay

Life was hard in this remote area of central Asia, until tourism offered new hope. Then Covid-19 struck and the visitors stopped coming

  • Photographs by Danil Usmanov

It has been over a decade since Umar Tashbekov saw his opportunity. His village, Sary-Mogol in Kyrgyzstan, at an altitude of 3,600 metres, is close to Lenin’s Peak, a popular mountain destination for tourists. If they were already hiking there, why not attract them to visit his village too?

Sary-Mogol is a three-hour drive from the nearest city of Osh, in the country’s south-east. Life here is not easy – short summers and unfavourable growing conditions make it hard to grow much more than potatoes and barley. The main source of work is the large livestock market in town. Others find employment as teachers or in the nearby coal mine. Out of its 5,200-strong population, about 500 people have left for Russia where companies welcome factory workers.

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