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The Thunder Of Hooves At The World Nomad Games

A sporting event like no other is taking place in Kyrgyzstan this week. The second World Nomad Games has attracted competitors from more than 40 countries, for six days of events in 23 ancient sports unique to Central Asia.


High in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan, a yurt city is host to the World Nomad Games. 
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High in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan, a yurt city is host to the World Nomad Games. 

On September 3, the games were officially opened to the thunder of hooves. 
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On September 3, the games were officially opened to the thunder of hooves. 

Dancers during the opening ceremony. The games are being held on the shores of Issyk Kul, a lake ringed by the Tian Shian mountains. 
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Dancers during the opening ceremony. The games are being held on the shores of Issyk Kul, a lake ringed by the Tian Shian mountains. 

Steven Seagal clip-clopped into the stadium during the ceremony. It was a low-energy entrance for the former action-movie star, but the local crowd roared their approval. 
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Steven Seagal clip-clopped into the stadium during the ceremony. It was a low-energy entrance for the former action-movie star, but the local crowd roared their approval. 

Flaming horsemen gallop through the opening ceremony. The games are devoted to traditional sports of Central Asia.
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Flaming horsemen gallop through the opening ceremony. The games are devoted to traditional sports of Central Asia.

Horsemanship and the martial skills of the nomad are king at this tournament, but some gentler arts are also practiced. This group of school friends choreographed their own dance, which mixes traditional and modern moves. 
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Horsemanship and the martial skills of the nomad are king at this tournament, but some gentler arts are also practiced. This group of school friends choreographed their own dance, which mixes traditional and modern moves. 

Mas wrestling is one of the sports held at the games. The sport is all about wresting a wooden stick from your opponent. 
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Mas wrestling is one of the sports held at the games. The sport is all about wresting a wooden stick from your opponent. 

A teenage horseman practices his draw between rounds of horseback archery. The event, known as "Atchan jaa atuu," requires riders to shoot at targets while at full gallop. 
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A teenage horseman practices his draw between rounds of horseback archery. The event, known as "Atchan jaa atuu," requires riders to shoot at targets while at full gallop. 

A Kazakh rider about to loose an arrow. One of the competitors explained the difficulty of the event: "If you think too hard about riding, you miss. If you think too hard about your shooting, you can fall off your horse. It's very dangerous." 
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A Kazakh rider about to loose an arrow. One of the competitors explained the difficulty of the event: "If you think too hard about riding, you miss. If you think too hard about your shooting, you can fall off your horse. It's very dangerous." 

Rolling landscape and the curly tail of a Taigan dog, on the sidelines of the dog-racing event. Taigan are a Kyrgyz dog breed whose large lungs, warm coat, and speed make them ideal for mountain hunting.  
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Rolling landscape and the curly tail of a Taigan dog, on the sidelines of the dog-racing event. Taigan are a Kyrgyz dog breed whose large lungs, warm coat, and speed make them ideal for mountain hunting.  

A young eagle hunter at the games. In the first Nomad Games, in 2014, a chained wolf was used as bait for the eagle-hunting event. This time, dead birds swung on a string were used to lure the eagles. 
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A young eagle hunter at the games. In the first Nomad Games, in 2014, a chained wolf was used as bait for the eagle-hunting event. This time, dead birds swung on a string were used to lure the eagles. 

Three women from the Bishkek Drama Theatre wait out a rainstorm inside a yurt, after their performance was postponed. 
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Three women from the Bishkek Drama Theatre wait out a rainstorm inside a yurt, after their performance was postponed. 

Horsemen wandering toward an event. In the mountains of Kyrgyzstan, the first touch of autumn is coloring the trees. 
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Horsemen wandering toward an event. In the mountains of Kyrgyzstan, the first touch of autumn is coloring the trees. 

Natalia Suarez Friedrichs looses an arrow during the women's archery. The Hungarian is in Kyrgyzstan for the first time and says Hungarians and Kyrgyz share the same roots. "I love Hungary too much to leave, but I could definitely see myself living as a nomad, sleeping in a yurt. Some day, maybe." In normal life, Natalia works for a courier company. 
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Natalia Suarez Friedrichs looses an arrow during the women's archery. The Hungarian is in Kyrgyzstan for the first time and says Hungarians and Kyrgyz share the same roots. "I love Hungary too much to leave, but I could definitely see myself living as a nomad, sleeping in a yurt. Some day, maybe." In normal life, Natalia works for a courier company. 

Spectators make their way over the river that cuts through the mountain venue. 
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Spectators make their way over the river that cuts through the mountain venue. 

A Kyrgyz man brushing his teeth, as the sun reaches the valley on the morning of September 6. 
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A Kyrgyz man brushing his teeth, as the sun reaches the valley on the morning of September 6. 

One of the most popular events was competitive yurt building. The fastest teams were able to erect the traditional nomad shelter in under 13 minutes. 
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One of the most popular events was competitive yurt building. The fastest teams were able to erect the traditional nomad shelter in under 13 minutes. 

Before the competition in musical improvisation, the competitors could be seen ambling through the woods behind the stage, practicing their craft. Nurmat Mansur, pictured with his dombra, works as a radio journalist back home in Kazakhstan. 
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Before the competition in musical improvisation, the competitors could be seen ambling through the woods behind the stage, practicing their craft. Nurmat Mansur, pictured with his dombra, works as a radio journalist back home in Kazakhstan. 

Men pray before eating lunch. Yurt meals are spectacular, though much of the table space is filled with fried bread. 
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Men pray before eating lunch. Yurt meals are spectacular, though much of the table space is filled with fried bread. 

A Kyrgyz man nods off in his finery. The World Nomad Games run until September 8. 
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A Kyrgyz man nods off in his finery. The World Nomad Games run until September 8. 

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