6 UNESCO World Traditions to Experience in 2017

6 UNESCO World Traditions to Experience in 2017

Every December since 2008, members of UNESCO’s cultural committee have met to decide which of the world’s cultural traditions will be honored for the previous year. This year, a number of them are in MIR’s destinations, and we can help you experience them.

These traditions are components of a collection that UNESCO calls the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. This heritage can include artistic, culinary, musical, celebratory, artisanal, or performance practices ­– any tradition that is so highly valued by a group of humans that its survival is considered important.

Here are six of our favorites:

Kazakh falconry

Kazakh falconry demonstration
Photo: Douglas Grimes

1. Falconry, a living human heritage

Hunters have teamed up with birds of prey for thousands of years, training them to bring their quarry back to be shared, in return for protection and shelter. Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Mongolia (among many other countries) all have a flourishing tradition of falconry.

Travelers can observe Kazakh falconry at a falcon farm outside of Almaty, Kazakhstan on these MIR tours:

In Kyrgyzstan, meet with eagle-hunters along the southern shore of Lake Issyk-Kul to learn about this traditional hunting method and the magnificent raptors they use.

And on a custom, private trip to Ulgii, Mongolia, where ethnic Kazakh nomads hunt with trained Golden Eagles, you can attend the annual Golden Eagle Festival.


Bread baker in Bukhara, Uzbekistan. Photo credit: Russ & Ellen Cmolik

Bread baker in Bukhara, Uzbekistan
Photo credit: Russ & Ellen Cmolik

2. Flatbread making and sharing culture

Flatbread, yeasted or unyeasted, slapped onto the side of a clay tandoor oven or shoved into a wood-fired pizza-type oven, is prepared and shared in many of MIR’s destinations. UNESCO singles out this tradition in Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkey, but it’s also alive and well in Armenia, Georgia, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

In Chon-Kemin, Kyrgyzstan, you can observe how the Kyrgyz make their round yeasted bread, called lepyoshka. The baker presses the dough into rimmed hand-sized rounds, and then slaps them onto the sides a tandoor clay oven. The more time she takes shaping and decorating the dough, the higher the price of the finished bread. Sample some of the warm, fragrant bread as it comes out of the oven.

In a little bakery in Yazd, Iran, travelers can watch bakers making taftoon bread. Explore Yazd on these MIR tours:

Taste and compare the breads of Uzbekistan on a special trip for 2017:

Read about Armenian wedding customs that relate to their flatbread, lavash.

“The groom’s mother usually greets the newly married couple at her door by draping lavash (Armenian flatbread) on their shoulders. (Ancient wisdom says that whoever drops bread on the floor will not be a good wife or husband.)”


Georgian script on display at a Signagi, Georgia market. Photo credit: Jake Smith

Georgian script on display at a market in Signagi, Georgia
Photo credit: Jake Smith

3. Living culture of three writing systems of the Georgian alphabet

Culturally, Georgia has language, customs and traditions uniquely 
its own. The beautiful Georgian script is one of perhaps only 20 true alphabets in the world, and evolved around the 
fifth century BC, possibly influenced by Aramaic.

You can travel to Georgia with MIR on these itineraries:


Local women in their Navruz fineryPhoto: Abdu Samadov

Local Uzbek women in their Navruz finery
Photo: Abdu Samadov

4. Navruz

The return of spring is marked with a ritual celebration called Navruz (and variations of the word) in countries that include MIR destinations — Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan,Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan — as well as in the U.S.

This upcoming spring of 2017, MIR is featuring a special tour that celebrates Navruz with local people in Uzbekistan, Backstreets & Bazaars of Uzbekistan.


The dish of Oshi Palav, a cornerstone of social and cultural traditions in Tajikistan. Photo gallery: Dmitry Rudich

A dish of oshi palav, a cornerstone of social and cultural traditions in Tajikistan
Photo gallery: Dmitry Rudich

5. Oshi Palav, a traditional meal and its social and cultural contexts in Tajikistan

The “King of Meals,” Tajik plov, or palav, is made from vegetables, rice, meat and spices, and prepared both at home and communally during social gatherings. The traditions of cooking and sharing plov help bring people together in this remote and mountainous country.

You can experience the traditions of Tajikistan with MIR:


National Dish Plov, Uzbekistan Photo Credit: Marina Karptsova

Uzbekistan’s national dish, plov
Photo Credit: Marina Karptsova

6. Palov culture and tradition, Uzbekistan

UNESCO writes, “There is a saying in Uzbekistan that guests can only leave their host’s house after palov has been offered.”

This delicious one-pot meal (also called plov) is served in its many variations all over Uzbekistan, as well as in other Central Asian countries. Each has its own take on the recipe, which is often cooked in huge batches to feed crowds.

A special cultural and culinary journey through Uzbekistan, Backstreets & Bazaars of Uzbekistan, led by renowned travel, culture and food writer Caroline Eden, introduces you to the cuisine and traditions of the heart of Central Asia.


Time to Celebrate

Intangible Cultural Heritage, described by UNESCO as “traditions or living expressions inherited from our ancestors and passed on to our descendants…” is an important gift that the world gives travelers, free of charge, in return for attention, appreciation and safeguarding.

Join MIR in celebrating the world’s creativity and diversity this year. 30 years of travel expertise means that the specialists at MIR know how to get there, what to do while you’re there, and how to enhance your trip in each of our destinations. Our full service, dedication, commitment to quality, and destination expertise have twice earned us a place on National Geographic Adventure’s list of “Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth.”

Wondering which destination or itinerary is right for you? In addition to browsing the pages of our free catalog, you can narrow down your choices online using our Trip Finder and the Destination Map. Or chat with our Private Journeys department to have a trip handcrafted to your interests, pace and budget.

Contact MIR today at info@mircorp.com or 1-800-424-7289.

Top photo: Stirring a pot of sumalak, a traditional holiday sweet, at an Uzbek Navruz celebration. Photo credit: Islom Nizomov



PUBLISHED: December 28, 2016

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