(CNN) — “Look over there. See that man coming this way?” asks Timur. “He’s so good looking.”
Galloping towards us on a stout Mongolian steed is the nomad’s version of Brad Pitt returning home in “Legends of the Fall.” Bundled inside a pinto jacket above richly embroidered trousers, he certainly catches the eye. A fox fur hat warms his head, and perched calmly on his right forearm is a golden eagle that’s not merely a prop for a cheesy cologne advertisement.
“Look at his eyebrows and his cheekbones,” continues our Intrepid Travel guide. “And look at how big and strong he is. The girls go crazy over him.”
“It’s true,” says Timur’s wife, Bata, blushing slightly. “If I was to compare him with Timur just on looks, of course I would choose him.”
Upon closer inspection, the intruder’s weathered face betrays a life lived outdoors. But his jaw is certainly chiseled and his natural squint reminds me of a youthful Clint Eastwood as he gazes off into the distance.
Jenisbek Tserik, whose name means “steel warrior,” is a semi-nomadic Kazakh.
Arguably more impressive though is his stature, which I only begin to appreciate once he stands beside four other berkutchi, or eagle hunters, who have assembled in front of us for a scheduled photo shoot and interview session. He’s close to a head taller, with broad, square shoulders and muscular limbs that are further exaggerated by his bulky attire.
His name is Jenisbek Tserik, an appellation that means “steel warrior” — an apt description given his achievements. A master horseman, he’s also a serial winner of tug-of-war competitions pitting two combatants wrestling a goat carcass.
So adept is Jenisbek that he has been flown to Dubai to compete in exhibition events. For a semi-nomadic Kazakh living in Mongolia’s remote, westernmost province of Bayan-Ölgii, any trip abroad would be like visiting another planet. Glitzy Dubai would be a whole different universe.
Aged 26, Jenisbek tells us he’s not married, then jokes that he has five girlfriends, including one in Dubai and another in Kazakhstan, from where 90% of Bayan-Ölgii’s resident population originates. I’m unsure if he’s serious, but from what Timur and Bata have told me about him, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility.
As well as the tug-of-war, Jenisbek is a champion archer, and he’s won numerous awards for eagle hunting in Bayan-Ölgii, where the centuries-old pastime is more widespread than anywhere else on the planet.
A proud history
Aged 26, Jenisbek says he’s not married — but has five girlfriends.
Tuul & Bruno Morandi/The Image Bank RF/Getty Images
Eagle hunting can be traced back to a forgotten kingdom in Central Asia, where direct descendants of Genghis Khan settled by the Aral Sea until encroaching Russian Empire forces compelled them to flee to the lawless region of the Altai Mountains in Mongolia.
Then, when the Soviet Union and China established borders either side of them early in the 20th century, the Kazakhs became cut off from their homeland and were unable to return.
They continued to live as semi-nomadic herders in Western Mongolia, where traditional pastimes such as hunting with golden eagles continued, passing from one generation to the next. Since such practices were suppressed in Kazakhstan during Soviet rule, Bayan-Ölgii became the sport’s nucleus.
“For a Mongol, it’s pride thing to train racehorses. For Kazakhs, their pride is in training eagles to hunt,” explains Bata.
You can see it in the way they walk and how they behave. The five berkutchi know they’re being watched and they play up to it, puffing their chests out and stiffening their backs whenever a camera lens points their way. Brows furrow and lips purse like they’ve been modeling all their lives.
It’s a far cry from how life must have been in this part of the world before tourism impinged following the first Golden Eagle Festival, which was staged outside the provincial capital of Ölgii in 1999. But even now, foreigners are hardly stampeding to get here. When I quiz our local facilitator about numbers visiting the region this season, he replies that there are “many.”
“How many?” I ask.
From October to March, eagle hunters head off into the mountains in pairs — one to flush out their prey, the other to release the eagle from high along a ridgeline.
Numbers peak around the timing of the festival in early October, and during the smaller scale Altai Kazakh Eagle Festival, held here in Sagsai two weeks earlier. In each, as many as 100 berkutchi test their skills in events where eagles are expected to catch fox skins being dragged behind horses or in races to scoop up a coin off the ground on horseback.
One flirtatious contest involves a whip-cracking woman chasing after a man who doesn’t always try overly hard to escape. I could imagine Jenisbek receiving a disproportionate share of lashings these past few years.
But it’s only once the tourists have gone that the eagle hunting season begins. From October to March, hunters head off into the mountains in pairs — one to flush out their prey, the other to release the eagle from high along a ridgeline.
Prize catches includes foxes and hares, whose luxuriant coats make the warmest hats, just like those crowning Jenisbek and his companions.
Hunts can last for days at a time, and training requires patience as the eagles become accustomed to their handlers and develop the required skills.
Has it caused couples to divorce, I ask Timur, when husbands spend more time with their birds than they do with their wife? He shrugs his shoulders.
When every unmarried woman in the valley is lining up for you, like they are for Jenisbek, who needs a wife?
Getting there: Though Mongolia is currently closed to tourism due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a number of tour companies are now accepting bookings for for the 2021 Golden Eagle Festival in Bayan-Ulgii, which takes place in early October.
The Culture Secretary Has Told Netflix To Put A Warning Into “The Crown” Telling Viewers The Drama Is Fictionalised
3 min read
The culture secretary Oliver Dowden wants Netflix to place a warning at the start of episodes of “The Crown” telling viewers the drama is fictionalised.
He said people could be in danger of thinking the events depicted in it are a wholly accurate version of what happened after a number of complaints about the new series of the hit show.
The minister is expected to write to the streaming service requesting a message is placed on screen, echoing a similar suggestion from Earl Spencer, the brother of Diana, Princess of Wales.
Speaking to the Mail on Sunday Mr Dowden said the series, which stars Olivia Colman as the Queen, was a “beautifully produced work of fiction”.
But he raised concerns younger viewers who do not have prior knowledge of some aspects might mistake the fictional representations for an accurate version of what happened.
There has been criticism of how various members of the Royal Family have been depicted, including Prince Charles after the latest episodes show the tensions in his marriage to Princess Diana.
And the widow of an army officer killed in an avalanche at a Swiss ski resort said she was “very upset” to learn the disaster features in the new series.
Sarah Horsley, whose husband Major Hugh Lindsay, a friend of the Prince of Wales and a former Queen’s equerry who died in 1988, asked The Crown’s producers not to include it, and was “horrified” when she was told the episode was going ahead.
Mr Dowden told the Mail on Sunday: “It’s a beautifully produced work of fiction, so as with other TV productions, Netflix should be very clear at the beginning it is just that.
“Without this, I fear a generation of viewers who did not live through these events may mistake fiction for fact.”
Last week Earl Spencer told ITV’s Lorraine: “I think it would help The Crown an enormous amount if, at the beginning of each episode, it stated that: ‘This isn’t true but it is based around some real events’.”
He added: “I worry people do think that this is gospel and that’s unfair.”
But actress Emma Corrin, who plays Princess Diana, has defended the show, saying: “I think for everyone in the The Crown, we always try and remind everyone that the series we are in is fictionalised, to a great extent.
“Obviously it has its roots in reality and in some fact, but Peter Morgan’s scripts are works of fiction.”
She added: “At the same time, I understand why people would be upset, because this is history… and even with Diana, you know, it’s still very much fresh, I suppose, everything that happened. So I do really understand if people would be upset.
“But obviously, for all of the cast, we just want to constantly remind people that we approach these people that we play as characters, which is why it’s such a joyous job, because Peter [Morgan, the show’s creator] writes such rich and complex characters, and as an actor it’s such a joy to be able to really bring a lot to them.”
Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jr share an engaging draw in ‘exhibition’ bout
Mike Tyson said he will “continue to go further and do more” in the boxing ring after his return to the sport ended in an engaging draw with Roy Jones Jr.
The 54-year-old former world heavyweight champion ended 15 years of inactivity to take on 51-year-old Jones in a high-profile pay-per-view ‘exhibition’ – but fears the pair would serve up a some form of money-making farce were not realised as they did enough to provide entertainment.
While rap artist Snoop Dogg said it was like watching “two of my uncles fighting at a barbecue” during his stint as a ringside commentator at the spectator-less Staples Center in Los Angeles, former world champions including David Haye, Lennox Lewis and George Foreman expressed satisfaction.
There were glimpses of the past as Tyson swayed from the hips, ploughed forward and tried to unload shots, while Jones sought to move fluidly, though he was visibly drained by the halfway stage.
Tyson landed a couple of eye-catching left hooks, some solid body shots and unquestionably forced the pace. Many on social media felt he had won well but the judges – not employed by the sanctioning body but by the WBC to offer added entertainment – thought otherwise.
Tyson said he was happy with the draw and made clear his future pursuits would not be in a professional capacity: “This is bigger than championships, we are humanitarians, we are helping people. I’m happy I got this under the belt and I’ll continue to go further and do more.”
Jones, a former four-weight world champion, said he would talk to his family before considering fighting again, and added: “I don’t do draws but the dude is so strong, man. When he hits you, his head, his punches, his body shots, everything hurts. I’m cool with the draw.”
So did it work?
Former heavyweight champion Foreman tweeted it was the “best exhibition I have ever seen”, Haye said the event was “competitive” and former world super-middleweight champion Richie Woodhall said the pair “didn’t disgrace themselves in any shape or form”.
What an ‘exhibition’ would look like was up for debate. The California State Athletic Commission, which sanctioned the fight, had required two-minute rounds instead of the usual three minutes, larger than normal 12-ounce gloves and had said neither fighter could seek a knockout. In a bid to make make the bout safer for the 50-something fighters, the commission even stated a winner would not be named.
Ultimately when the bell sounded Tyson tried to fight aggressively, Jones looked to survive and tie his rival up a bit and any fears they would walk around and do little were quickly overcome.
Music artists including Wiz Khalifa and Snoop Dogg performed in a bid to add to the pay-per-view offer, and moments before his ring walk Jones questioned the small ring in use, stating: “It’s like they are feeding me to the bear.”
Moments before he walked to the ring in his glory years Tyson was known to punch holes in changing room walls. Here, he admitted to fears moments before his ring walk as he stated: “I’m just pushing myself. Whatever I’m afraid to do, I do.”
Jones’ energy tank looked close to empty by halfway but Tyson – who will give some of the reported $10m (£7.5m) he earned to charity – appeared well conditioned over the eight rounds.
UFC president Dana White watched and said: “Time is undefeated and takes us all down. Fighting is a young man’s game. Mike looked awesome tonight. I was blown away. It exceeded my expectations.”
Since his first heavyweight world-title win aged 20 – a record that still stands – Tyson has been in prison for rape, battled drug and alcohol abuse, been bankrupt, acted in films and fronted his own one-man show.
Despite scandal and chaos he has stayed relevant and fans posted images of the hell-raising figure they hoped they may see moments before a ring return that had been anticipated by some and ridiculed by others.
While it was acceptable and entertaining, it is hard to see how repeat editions can prove as enticing. This was largely all about seeing if a 54-year-old former champion had anything left.
Tyson showed he did. He was in shape, he punched with menace and it can be argued some high-profile professional fights have offered less in terms of entertainment.
Whether there was enough quality, risk and drama on offer to keep people paying to watch more is another matter.
‘Snoop Dogg wins’ – reaction
- Watch 13 FA Cup second-round games on BBC iPlayer, the BBC Sport website and app this weekend. Find out more here.
Whole Foods sent some customers a disconcerting email about their turkey
A “small number” of fresh market turkeys that were purchased from Whole Foods “did not meet our high expectations for quality,” the letter from Amazon customer service said. The note stressed there was no known food safety or health risk with any of the turkeys, but still, its recipient would be given a $50 Amazon gift card credited to their account.
“We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may cause and are grateful to be a part of your holiday feasting,” the email said.
Reached for comment by CNN, Whole Foods confirmed that it had “discovered a small number of fresh turkey products in our South region that did not meet our high expectations for quality.”
“While these products do not pose any known health risks, we know how important holiday meals are to our shoppers and have proactively contacted customers who potentially purchased one of these turkeys,” the company said.
Stores in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, as well as two in the Florida panhandle were impacted, Whole Foods said.
The company assured that not all fresh turkey products were affected, nor did it say what, exactly, went wrong.
Whole Foods was also seen responding to some customers on Twitter re-affirming that the turkeys were safe to eat, and pointed them to US Food and Drug Administration guidelines for safely roasting a turkey.
The FDA’s website says fresh turkeys shouldn’t be bought more than 1-2 days before they are cooked. The guidelines say ovens should be set to no cooler than 325, and a whole turkey is safe when its cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees.
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