Balmoral estate hosts World Nomad Games

World Nomad Games

I suggested to my gymnast granddaughter that she emulate the archer quine (pictured), with a view to participating in the bow-and-arrow display at the Games, but she said that her ticklish toes would make the feat impossible.

‘Girl in traditional dress performs an impressive display’: photograph © Viktor Drachev TASS/Getty Images

There was an early tourism boost for Aberdeenshire as the World Nomad Games were staged on the Royal Deeside estate of Balmoral this spring, Scotland’s first turn at hosting the event. The Games were organised by Aberdeenshire Inspired and funded by the Scottish Government. The decision to bid and then extend invitations – to all diasporic nations sharing long nomadic histories – came about after the President of the Central Asian nation of Kyrgyzstan visited Aberdeen in the autumn of 2016. With twenty-five golds, hosts Kyrgyzstan topped the medals table at last year’s Games.

“In the modern world, people are forgetting their history and there is a threat of extinction for traditional cultures,” said Kyrgyz president Almazbek Atambayev. “Nomadic civilisation is a good example of sustainable development, which is what all of humanity is looking for today. The Games were designed to unite nations.”

Two thousand competitors from forty countries pitched up for the Games in Scotland. A hippodrome was built in the shadow of Lochnagar, beloved mountain and haunt of Prince Charles. A traditional yurt village was constructed on the site where the Braemar Gathering takes place in September every year.

The Games featured unorthodox disciplines and ethno-sports, such as hunting with golden eagles and throwing bones. The highlight was the horse-riding competition, Kok-boru, a tradition which dates back to when men brandishing sticks on fire used to hunt animals that preyed on their livestock. Fire wards off evil spirits. As part of the Games programme, visitors to the Games were encouraged to rewild with reindeer, beavers, lynx and wolves in the Caledonian forests, or to tramp on the Cairngorms mountains.

More fierce – if not fiery – competition was evident in the stick wrestling, an event in which two competitors tried to gain control of a small stick. The Scottish entrants excelled at the caber tossing, as expected, though the event was cancelled after several teams visited the Lochnagar Distillery prior to the tossing. The Army teams from nearby Ballater won both the tug-of-war and the polo competitions. The Royal Family sponsored a special game – riders on horseback tried to capture a dead goat, then hurl the decapitated carcass into a goal. Security was strict due to the Castle venue, and protest threats from animal rights activists.

Within the grounds of Balmoral, there were concerts for spectators, a nomads cinema, processions, stunts involving camels and yaks, husky racing, tent erection displays, belt wrestling, Bedouin dancing, rolling Easter eggs and pagan face-painting.

The opening ceremony for Scotland’s World Nomad Games was at Crathie on April 1st.

I thought that this article would crash my spellcheck; the only words it has challenged are ‘quine’ and ‘caber’. A quine is a lass, a girl.  A caber is a big stick, a telegraph pole.

Lonely Planet photographs

TRT World

Davide Monteleone works on independent projects using photography, video and text



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