Tatar shamails, a kind of religious calligraphy, are considered unique to the Volga-Ural region. Compared to both an icon and a graphic print, a shamail speaks the spiritual language of Quranic sentences, interlaced in splendid ornamental framework. In the local shops you can find a variety of Quran editions in Tatar, Russian and Arabic languages. Some of them are true works of art published on high quality paper with beautifully decorated covers.
You can dress up head to toe Kazan style! Men should go for ‘tubeteika’, a traditional beautifully embroidered Tatar skullcap. Girls should definitely consider getting the ‘kalfak’ — a female headdress. Tatar robes of green or navy blue velvet adorned with national patterns look good on everyone, and the super comfortable boots called ‘ichgi’ will help complete your 100% local look!
The Tatars traditionally drink tea from small, beautifully decorated ceramic bowls called ‘pialas’. It is believed that holding the bowl with both hands helps to concentrate on the tea and taste all the flavors better. A set of beautifully painted tea bowls can be a great gift, especially if paired with a box of chak-chak.
This is a national Tartar sweet, made from unleavened dough, shaped into hazelnut-sized balls, and then deep-fried in oil and drenched with hot honey. Optionally hazelnuts or dried fruits are added to the mixture. Chak-chak is conveniently packed in plastic boxes and doesn’t need refrigerating.
Herbal liqueurs, called ‘balsams’, are sweet and spicy alcoholic infusions. They are made by maceration of herbs, roots and berries. Balsams and are believed to benefit your health. Use them to flavor your tea and coffee or make cocktails. Check for allergies though. The most popular brands are ‘Bugulma’ and ‘Tatarstan’.
Legend has it that centuries ago in Kazan there was an exceptionally large, agile and brave breed of cats capable of hunting aggressive and strong rats. In 1745, the Empress Elizabeth ordered to bring 30 Kazan cats to the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg to ward off rodents. The cat remains the symbol of Kazan and cute cat figures can be found in every souvenir shop.
Skan jewelry and artwork
Skan is delicate metalwork made with thin gold, silver or copper twisted threads soldered together on a metal background. In Russia, skan techniques were already used in the 9th and 10th century, but Tatar masters brought the open-worked and relief patterns to perfection. Skan jewelry with gems can make a stunning gift for that special someone.