The not so-discreet charm of Bishkek’s Osh Bazaar


By Habib Toumi

BISHKEK: The Roman Emperor Julius Caesar may have said “Veni, vidi, vici” (I came, I saw, I conquered), but I can say “I came, I saw, I loved” when talking about my visit to Bishkek and Kyrgyzstan.

My latest “love” was the Osh Bazaar, as no visit to Bishkek, the bustling capital of Kyrgyzstan would be complete without a visit to the huge open-air market where it is possible to buy almost anything.

Food products, spices, household goods, clothes, garments, hats, souvenirs, musical instruments, bread, delicacies, bread, bags … are readily available and at affordable prices that easily beat competition elsewhere.

The bazaar has evolved from a food market with fresh vegetables, fruits, and herbs (Green Bazaar) to the most popular market in Bishkek and a place for socialization for the residents.


During our visit, the bazaar was blissfully not crowded, so, led by our expert “guide” Nurzhan, we make our way to the different sections.

Food products were neatly arranged in the large stands, but clothes had to display skillfully in the narrow winding alleys of the labyrinthine sections. People benevolently cooperated to ease their way or to wait for their turn. There was none of the arguments or noises that dominated all conversations in bazaars in other countries.


Most of the salespersons were women, young and not so young, and invariably ready to answer queries and to assist, helping to make the bazaar atmosphere convivial and friendly. And when communication was not easy because of the language barrier, Nurzhan was always prompt to help. Some sales ladies used their mobile phones or calculators to overcome the language handicap and settle matters.


The bazaar was not at all intimidating and there was no concern about becoming confused or getting lost among the myriad of shops, stands and products.

The bazaar was a far cry from the multitude of modern shopping centers along tree-edged wide roads in Bishkek, but it did offer a unique opportunity to enjoy the Kyrgyzstan folk atmosphere with all its components.


Osh Bazaar, with its multiple functions, its readiness to fulfill the needs of all social classes, its affordable prices, the colorful excitement it generates, and its significance for social interactions will long remain the backbone of Bishkek.

And that explains why I fell in love with it.

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