Wednesday, March 31, 2010
I had the amazing opportunity to see the famous Central Asia game of buzkashi on March 21st, the Nav Ruz "New Day" holiday. It's the New Year of the Persian world. I don't understand all the rules of this game, but the name means "goat grab" and the object is to grab a headless, dead goat that's been soaked in water and ride with it into a certain goal area. There are no fouls and no "out of bounds"; this game is hockey on a double dose of steroids, to put it mildly. This particular game was played in a field set in a low bowl and the spectators mostly stood on the slope around the field, but as you can see in the video, some of them chose to stand on the field. The riders can come in any direction at any time, so the crowd frequently runs from the action. The game came way too close for comfort to some of my expat friends; they were about a yard from a horse. I didn't get that close but had to run with the crowd several times. It's scary, but there's definitely a thrill. It was a very unique experience. The foreigners, especially women, were almost as entertaining to the spectators standing around us as the game itself. The crowd is 99.9% Tajik men wearing the standard black jackets and bowl haircuts, and a group of 15 foreigners, most of them women, stuck out even more than usual. People were basically quite polite, but people definitely got a kick out of how quickly we were prepared to run when the horses even looked like they were coming our way. The video speaks for itself--enjoy!