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Parisian Karl Haddad: Bishkek is a unique city

Parisian Karl Haddad is a Lebanese by origin. He came to Bishkek in light of an internship for Novastan, the main french-speaking news outlet specialized in Central Asia. The hospitality of the Kyrgyz people reminds him of his native city, but the garbage in the streets of the capital disappoints him.

— What did you feel when you arrived in Bishkek?

— I was overwhelmed with the feelings when I saw the mountain landscape. It’s amazing! When I finally arrived in Bishkek, I had a feeling of something familiar, as if I saw the similar streets in Minsk, Kiev or Novosibirsk. This is the city where I can instinctively find my way.

-What surprises you in Bishkek?

— Bishkek has the basis of a soviet city with its architecture and monuments. However, it has something typically local that makes it unique. Maybe it’s the oriental touch and the mixture of Soviet / Russian culture with Asian and Islamic cultures.

— What in Bishkek reminds you of your hometown?

— I think the hospitality here reminds me a lot of my hometown, in Lebanon. People here are true and kind, and always ready to help you out. How people also manage to live together despite cultural and spiritual differences reminds me of Lebanon as well. The food is also similar, especially the shashlik and ayran.

-What or whom do you miss here?

— I miss my family and friends, mostly. But I am also here to make new friendships and try to often contact my family abroad.

It’s sad for me to say that Central Asia is not very well known in Europe or the Middle East, so not too many were keen on joining me in this journey.

Karl Haddad

-What is your favorite place in Bishkek?

— I am still new here, but I love the Victory Park, it carries a lot of history, and the sculptures there are interesting. It’s also a place of calm in a very active city. For spiritual reasons I also like the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of Bishkek.

— What do you like in national cuisine and what are you afraid to even taste?

— I must say that plov in all its variations is by far my favorite dish in regards to local cuisine. I could eat it every day. Honestly, I am a very curious person in regards to food. Some of my friends are afraid of eating brains and stuff like that, but we eat those in Lebanon as well. I am not really afraid to taste anything.

— What places have you already visited in Kyrgyzstan?

— Recently, I visited Burana tower, which is located near Tokmak. I have managed to visit Issyk-Kul Lake and climb Skazka canyon. I can say that all these places are unique.

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

-As I said earlier, the hospitality here is amazing. Having locals telling me «Assalam Alaykum» after learning I was from the Middle East was also nice. And people are close and approachable, they are willing to show you around and go out even if you just met them. You wouldn’t get that in Paris for example.

-What would you change in Bishkek?

— I am disappointed by the litter on the streets and the pollution. I think Bishkek and Kyrgyzstan in general would be even nicer if more effort was put into having cleaner streets.