Major cultural values of Kazakhs:
respect for elders, peacefulness and tolerance, sociability, hospitality and desire to live in harmony with surrounding world. Kazakh traditions require a guest to be filled with tea and well fed. Each Kazakh think of readiness to spread dastarkhan (to lay the table for guest) as his/her virtue and dignity.
Kiiz ui - kazakh yurt. Although, nowadays Kazakhs live either in city apartments or in rural houses made of bricks, they are still fond of dwelling, which they call kiiz ui or agashui (yurt). This wonderful invention of our nomadic ancestors is a very comfortable and practical house, ideally suited to the way of life, weather and climate. Yurt is easily disassembled and transported either by horses or by camels.
Inside and outside decorations of yurt (interior and exterior) consists mainly of felt, skillfully made by local workwomen. Every detail in yurt is being decorated with embroidery, application. Carpets, korpe (small mattresses for sitting) are being decorated with national ornament, which patterns have a deep meaning. For making of household items such material as copper, bone, silver, wood, leather is being used. Bowls and scoops for kumys (drink from milk of mare) are being made by artisans from wood and decorated with skillful carving. Beds and chests are being decorated with horn of argali and mountain goat. Leather is being used for making lashes, belts, harness and water bottle (torsyk); artisans are also very skilful in jewelry.
Steppe jewellers (zergers) prefer to work with noble white silver. You will for sure enjoy Kazakh earrings made in the form of small bells, crescents with many pendants, original bracelets-bleziki, and traditional sets of three rings, connected with bracelet by thin chains.
Kazakh national clothing varies, depending on region. Main clothing is “shapan” (belted coat). It is being sewed from velvet. Traditional headdresses include men’s high felt hats, soft skullcaps and malakai - hats made of fox’s fur. National clothing for women consist of white or colored silk dress, on the top of which velvet jacket or vest, richly decorated with embroidery is put on. Girls cover their heads with hats, decorated with beads and crystals; young women wear silk scarves; older, married women cover their heads with kimeshek – silk scarves, made using a unique model, which leaves woman’s face not covered. Brides put on high pointed, richly decorated hat, “saukele” with topknot on top.
Music and musical instruments. Oratory art is of high value to Kazakhs; they honor akyns (bards), poet improvisers, performing in public contests (aitys) to the accompaniment of national musical instruments: two string dombra and kobyz, stringed instrument. Despite their apparent simplicity, dombra and kobyz have a unique, rich sound.
Nauryz (New Year) is one of the major holidays in Central Asia. It is being celebrated on March 22, the day of vernal equinox. Streets of cities and villages on this day change entirely. Guests are met in holiday yurts and treated with “nauryz kozhe” ritual course, which is cooked from seven traditional ingredients. Nauryz lasts for one month; during this time people communicate with each other, go visiting, and forgive each other for debts and grievances.
National games are an indispensable attribute of the holiday. It is kazakshakures (Kazakh wrestling), baiga (long distance horse races of 25, 50 or 100 kilometers), kokpar (riders try to grasp and pull goat carcass), kyz-kuu (catch a girl), and alty bakan (swings on six pillars).