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Fermented Mare's Milk, A Kyrgyz Summer Favorite

Kumis is a mildly alcoholic drink made from fermented mare's milk, popular across Central Asia. In Kyrgyzstan's Alai mountains, some nomadic communities are famous for their kumis, which attracts visitors from the cities who come to drink it for its purported health benefits.

Children living in the Chyiyrchyk Pass at an altitude of 2,400 meters. Their village comprises about 200 yurts and 100 tents.
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Children living in the Chyiyrchyk Pass at an altitude of 2,400 meters. Their village comprises about 200 yurts and 100 tents.

Visitors from the cities often come to the mountains to drink fresh kumis, which is thought to have many healthy properties.
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Visitors from the cities often come to the mountains to drink fresh kumis, which is thought to have many healthy properties.

Some tourists also seek the health benefits of fresh mare's milk, before it's fermented to make kumis.
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Some tourists also seek the health benefits of fresh mare's milk, before it's fermented to make kumis.

The local horses are short and sturdy, well-suited to a rugged life high in the mountains.
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The local horses are short and sturdy, well-suited to a rugged life high in the mountains.

To make kumis, one needs a bag made from goatskin, which must first be smoked over a juniper fire.
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To make kumis, one needs a bag made from goatskin, which must first be smoked over a juniper fire.

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The kumis ferments inside a "chanach" -- a smoke-cured goatskin bag -- and is later whisked with a stick.
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The kumis ferments inside a "chanach" -- a smoke-cured goatskin bag -- and is later whisked with a stick.

A wooden barrel is a more modern alternative to the goatskin.
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A wooden barrel is a more modern alternative to the goatskin.

Fresh butter, on the other hand, is kept inside a cow's stomach.
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Fresh butter, on the other hand, is kept inside a cow's stomach.

A young assistant helps to whisk the kumis...
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A young assistant helps to whisk the kumis...

...which is mildly alcoholic when it's finally served.
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...which is mildly alcoholic when it's finally served.

Guests gather to enjoy kumis together with fresh bread or "boorsok," a type of fried dough.
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Guests gather to enjoy kumis together with fresh bread or "boorsok," a type of fried dough.

Dishes, teapots, and other items are kept suspended inside the yurt.
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Dishes, teapots, and other items are kept suspended inside the yurt.

Elders receive special treatment and respect among the families in the village.
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Elders receive special treatment and respect among the families in the village.

Aksakal, the head of his family, rests while younger relatives make kumis or serve guests.
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Aksakal, the head of his family, rests while younger relatives make kumis or serve guests.

A small tent, less sturdy than a yurt, is set up to serve as a kumis bar for tourists.
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A small tent, less sturdy than a yurt, is set up to serve as a kumis bar for tourists.

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