21 March 2008

The smell of shashlik on Nooruz

A pall of meat smoke from shashlik, marinated meat that is grilled on skewers, hung over Panfilov Park in Bishkek Friday during the celebration of Nooruz, an Islamic holiday. Nooruz, from the Persian word for "new day," was suppressed in Central Asia during the Soviet era but bounced back after independence. Like other holidays in Kyrgyzstan, it attracts countless villagers and rural dwellers into the capital.

Last week, the Kyrgyz government declared that Monday, which is National Revolution Day in recognition of the so-called Tulip Revolution of 2005, will also be recognized as a holiday. While few people object to a four-day weekend, the decision was met with a great deal of public ambivalence because the current government--ushered in during what could be more accurately called a coup than a revolution--has been widely criticized as illegitimate, especially after flawed elections last December. Some of the locals I have spoken to also fear that Monday's holiday will encourage another round of anti-government protests.

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