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Sheep's Wool And Clay: Making Traditional Kyrgyz Tandyr Ovens

Throughout Central Asia, tandyr -- clay ovens -- are used to make traditional tandoor bread or "nan." It's a special process in which the dough is stuck to the side of the tandyr and is baked by the heat from the oven walls. Photographer Ernist Nurmatov of RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service, Radio Azattyk, recently visited a family tandyr factory in the southwestern Kyrgyz city of Osh. The Nizamov family, who are ethnic Uzbeks, have been producing the ovens by hand for almost 40 years.

General view over the tandyr factory
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General view over the tandyr factory

The ovens are tested before being shipped. A quality oven can last for up to 20 years.
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The ovens are tested before being shipped. A quality oven can last for up to 20 years.

Preparing the moistened clay. All members of the family help in the production of the ovens.
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Preparing the moistened clay. All members of the family help in the production of the ovens.

First, the soil used to make the clay must be sifted until it is free of unwanted pebbles.
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First, the soil used to make the clay must be sifted until it is free of unwanted pebbles.

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Sheep’s wool is added to the clay to make it stronger.
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Sheep’s wool is added to the clay to make it stronger.

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Brandishing the tools of the trade
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Brandishing the tools of the trade

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Once formed, the ovens are left in the sun to dry.
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Once formed, the ovens are left in the sun to dry.

The Nizamov family produces many of their ovens for export to Russia, where they are in demand among Central Asian immigrants. It cost the family about 1,000 rubles ($25) to transport each oven to Russia, where they sell for between 15,000-20,000 rubles ($370-$495).
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The Nizamov family produces many of their ovens for export to Russia, where they are in demand among Central Asian immigrants. It cost the family about 1,000 rubles ($25) to transport each oven to Russia, where they sell for between 15,000-20,000 rubles ($370-$495).

A baker places nan into a tandyr in the Tajik capital, Dushanbe.
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A baker places nan into a tandyr in the Tajik capital, Dushanbe.

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