Troubled but Hospitable Osh

The first stop after leaving China was the Kyrgyz city of Osh, situated in the south of the country, close to the border with Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. 

Arriving here after an obseleny long journey in the morning, we grabbed our bags and went in search for lodging.  Traveling is amazing and right away the contrasts between the two countries couldn't be any more different.  Osh felt a little bit like Europe with cafes along the sidewalk, few Mercedes, and a lot of old Soviet cars.  Of course the people looked different too with Caucasian and Asian features mixed in.

We went in search for lodging based on a tip but finding proved to be a challenge with a lot of non-descript Soviet style apartment buildings with hardly a number or a street sign for guidance.  Luckily, in our confused and frustrated moment, we ran into a student, who spoke English and guided us to the location, only to be met with just a sign but no one answering the door.  Knocking on a neighbors door, a Russian woman kindly used her phone to call the hotel but since there was no answer, explained to us to wait for the owner to return.  

Throughout our travels, we have met some amazingly gracious and kind people and Osh would prove to be no different.  We were tired and hungry, so instead of waiting, went in search for another hotel and luckily landed on the steps of the Taj Mahal.  Being on a budget, all of the nice hotels, are out of our category, so at first looking at the Taj, weren't sure if it would meet our needs but went in anyway.

We inquired and luckily they had dorms and so checked in, which would have suited us just fine had we not met Onoor, the hotel owner.  She asked the typical questions of where we had come from, names, etc but like other countries, many are interested in our faith and upon learning that we are Muslim and on top live in America, she broke out in a huge smile and commanded us in Russian that we leave the dorm and check into a private room so that we could have the privacy to pray.  We protested because first, we didn't want to pay more for a private room and second did not want to take advantage of her hospitality.  She wouldn't have it, so we grabbed our bags and went into our own big room with our own bathroom offered at the same price as the dorm.

Osh has a lot of burned out buildings due to its recent violent past, where the Uzbeks and the Krygyz had a massive religious riot in 2009 and a few hundred people were killed overnight in the ensuing swift movement.  Talking to the people, many are optimistic that things are better now and will continue to be but there are still tensions between the two groups and because of this fear many tourists are avoiding the area.  We, however, found the people to be extremely hospitable and full of smiles.

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