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Bishkek through eyes of Moroccan Bouchra Makhtoum

Bouchra Makhtoum is 25 years old. In Bishkek, she works at OpenCBS software company as a marketing specialist. Before Kyrgyzstan, Bouchra visited France, Great Britain, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Turkey and the United States of America. Bouchra is fluent in English, French and Arabic, it happened so that she was born in France, studied in England till the 6th grade and then lived in Morocco.

— What surprises you in Bishkek, Bouchra?

— The fact that the Kyrgyz people are very interested in foreigners. The people in Kyrgyzstan want to know a lot about those people who come to your country. And for me, it is very valuable that the people around express such an interest in my country and culture. They seem very interested in getting to know people who are different from them. I feel friendly attitude, and I feel myself very comfortable living in Kyrgyzstan.

— What reminds you of your native city?

— The heat in Bishkek reminds me of my city Rabat. Summer is very hot there, and here it is the same. The only difference is that we have a coastline that cools our heat. I miss the variety of vegetables and fruits that we have in Morocco.

I think that oranges are imported to Bishkek from my country. But at home, we have such an abundance of fruits and vegetables that are available at the lowest prices! I also miss my national cuisine. We add a lot of spices to the dishes. Our cuisine is popular all over the world and is very diverse.

— Do you have a favorite place in Bishkek or in Kyrgyzstan?

— Natural Park Ala-Archa. It is the breathtaking beauty of the mountains that has passed the test of time. The beauty of nature in Ala-Archa is absolutely fascinating, and I always feel tranquility when I go there.

— What do you like in the national cuisine? And what are you afraid to try?

— I really like lagman. It is very tasty and yummy, and I can eat it every day. I hope that one day I will be able to cook it for my family in Morocco. Ashlam-fu is very refreshing and quite different from lagman dish.

I’ve never tasted cold soup before, and it’s exactly what you need in such a heat. I’m afraid of trying sumelek, because I heard that you put many different ingredients in it, and even stones. And I’m not very sure that I will like it.

— And what has fascinated and disappointed you in close acquaintance with the local population?

— I was joyfully surprised at how people are willing to help, even if they do not know you. The people around

are always ready to help. I am deeply moved how the Kyrgyz value their families. It seems that family here is the foundation of culture. And it’s wonderful how much you can give each other. I was a little disappointed that Kyrgyz people do not speak English, because I would like to communicate more with the local people, but the language barrier does not give this opportunity.

— What would you change in Kyrgyzstan?

— I would like to change public transport. I simply hate minibuses and I think that if there were more buses, it would help both the locals and the foreigners. I would also like the letters to be written in Latin, not Cyrillic alphabet, because I have to turn to local residents for help to understand the inscriptions on street signs.