In an echo of centuries past, a squad of armored warriors line the walls of a 2nd century fortress as the sky explodes into bursts of color over a screaming crowd.
This is but a small footnote at the end of a day of cultural celebration in the deserts of Uzbekistan’s Republic of Karakalpakistan. The 2012 Asrlar Sadosi festival at Toprak Qala captured some of the most exciting cultural traditions of Uzbekistan, from colorful regional dances to incredible horse games like kokpar.
Organized by the Fund Forum Uzbekistan in association with UNESCO, the annual Asrlar Sadosi events celebrate the unique tradition, culture, and customs of Uzbekistan.
The most recent festival, held at the Toprak Qala fortress in the region known in antiquity as Khorezm, showcased everything from sports and music to visual and performance art.
Perhaps most gripping to watch were the numerous games of kokpar, a traditional horse sport which sees two mounted teams fighting for control of a decapitated goat carcass. At several points throughout the day, games raged out of control as players stormed off the field and into the nearby parking lots.
Other traditional sports such as wrestling, ram fighting, and rooster fighting drew smaller but no less enthusiastic crowds.
At the end of the two day festival, costumed warriors stood watch over Toprak Qala as contingents from across Uzbekistan assembled for a spectacular gala concert.
The Asrlar Sadosi festival is hosted yearly by the Fund Forum. At the time of writing the date and location of the 2013 festival have not been decided.