The yurta is an essential item of Central Asian culture.It is a portable house in which nomads lived and some still live today.They first appeared at the end of the 8th - or early 7th century BC, when sedentary and semi-sedentary tribes of shepherds started nomadic cattle breeding. In the epoch of patriarchal-tribal relations yurtas were large and sometimes one yurta housed about 200 people.The construction of a yurta was improved by nomads over many centuries. They can be quickly assembled and disassembled. The separate parts can easily be transported on horses, camels and yaks.The yurta's wooden frame consists of trellis walls (the kerege) which form a circle with a diamerter between 3 and 6 m. A typical yurta is about 3 m high. The walls are assembled from separate links (called kanats). The frame of a small yurta has 4 links, of a middle-size yurta has 6 links and that of a big yurta has from 8 to 12 links.
Poles for the kerege are 2 or 3 m long, 2 to 3 cm in diameter and they are usually made of willow. The poles are tied by leather belts and for this purpose each pole has 7 or 8 holes.
The assembling of a yurta begins with the setting of a door frame. Then the walls are assembled and after that a semi-sphere shaped cupola with a hoop (tunduk) is put on the top of a yurta. Poles for the cupola are 2m or 3.5 m long with a diameter of not less than 3 cm. They are pointed and bent. One end is fixed to the top of the walls and the other end supports the hoop (the tunduk).
A tunduk has a diameter of about 1.5 m and it is made of wood of a birch tree. The tunduk serves as a window to lighten the yurta, and as a chimney as well.The entrance of a yurta is closed with a straw-mat of chiy or with a wooden door. The outer side of the walls is covered with a chiy mat and then with felt. The cupola of a yurta is decorated with an ornament and covered with felt. The big hole of the tunduk is closed with felt for the night.
The exterior and interior of a yurta are decorated with ornaments made on carpets or on felt. Yurta is usually 3 m - 3.5 m high.The layout of the interior has remained the same over the centuries. In the centre is a place for a hearth (or kolomto) which keeps the interior warm. Above the fire a boiler is placed. The earth floor of a yurta is covered with a big piece of felt, a carpet or a fleece. The walls are covered with velvet carpets (called tush-kiyiz).Kitchen utensils, house-hold items, and clothes are kept in sacks which hang on the trellis walls in a strict order.The yurta is divided into two parts: one for men and the other for women. The men's part is on the lefthand side, and it is here that usually those items which are needed for cattle breeding, hunting and horse riding are kept. The women's part is on the righthand side of yurta. This is the place for kitchen utensils, house-hold things and a stock of food.
Opposite the entrance behind the hearth, in the central part of the wall there is a place for honoured guests. Near the wall there are bags and sacks with valuable things and clothes, blankets, pillows and carpets piled on top of each other. This is also the place for sleeping. A yurta was originally lit by a candle (called a chirak) placed on a wooden plate, but later kerosene lamps were used.The interior and exterior of yurta tells about the wealth of its owner. Yurtas of wealthy people are bigger in size, they are covered with a good quality felt decorated with stripes of ornaments, embroidery, straw mats, and there are many carpets inside. Rich families may have not just one yurta, but several: for members of the family, for guests, for married sons, for cooking.