Mongolia is an independent republic in East Asia. The country is bounded on the south, east and west by China and to the north by Russia. The capital city is Ulaanbaatar, and other major cities include Darhan and Erdenet. The country is mountainous with an average altitude of 1580 meters above sea level, which makes Mongolia one of the highest countries in the world. The lowest point is Hoh Nuur depression at 560 meters above sea level and the highest point is the Khuiten peak at 4374 m.
The Mongolia gained fame in the 13th century when under Chinggis KHAAN they established a huge Eurasian empire through conquest. For 3 000 years, the people of the steppes have adopted a pastoral way of life moving in the search of best pastures and campsites. They live by and for their livestock, in the forefront of which the horse undoubtedly was the first animal dome
sticated in these infinite meadows. Today, approximately half of Mongolia’s population is still roaming the vast plains living in the ger and moving their camping several times a year on the grounds with no fence. Nomadic life thrives in summer and survives in winter. Considering climatic conditions, especially during winter, such lifestyle may seem to the outside world to be a very hard way of living. However, Mongolians have developed for centuries such qualities as strength and resilience that are essential for survival in this harsh nature, which is their cherished homeland.
Mongolia was a communist state being sandwiched between China and Russia and when the Soviet Union broke up in the 1990’s removing economic assistance, the country went into a crippling recession. Economic activity traditionally has been based on agriculture and breeding of livestock. The country however also has extensive mineral deposits including copper, coal, molybdenum, tin, tungsten, and gold account for a large part of industrial production. Iron ore deposits are found in the region near the town of Darhan and coal is also produced in this region.
The international time zone in Mongolia is GMT + 8 hours and GMT + 7 hours in the western provinces of Bayan-Ulgii, Uvs and Khovd.
Naadam is an age old celebration of the test of courage, strength, dexterity, and marksmanship or the nomads. It is held annually from July 11-13th throughout the country. The three “manly games” consist of horse racing, wrestling and archery. The race is over 30 km in distance and is raced by young riders some as young as six year old. Wresting start with traditional “eagle dance” that is supposed to lift the spirit. Archery dates back to the times of Chinggis Khaan’s warriors. People also compete in ankle bone shooting.
For more than, 2000 year Mongolians have been celebrating Tsagaan Sar or the White month, to mark end of winter and beginning of spring The holiday takes place January – February according to the lunar calendar. Tsagaan sar is the celebration of new life and symbolizes wealth and prosperity in the family. The holiday is celebration for three days where the elderly and most respected and close family members are visited first they holiday provides opportunity for people to gather and celebrate and exchange news and gifts Families prepare for the holiday a month in advance by making plenty of food and gifts. In rural areas, due to distance and weather conditions, the celebrations at times can last longer than a month. Buddhist monasteries and temples hold rituals and services to pray and bless for the well being of the worshipers. Tsagaan sar provides a great opportunity to share the celebration one of the most sacred holidays in Mongolia with nomads out in the steppes while enjoying the last of winter.
Mongolia is one of last nomadic countries in the world. Since the Hunnu Empire, The nomadic way of lifestyle is still practiced today in the rural areas of the country. Nomads follow a seasonal routine raising and breeding the five kinds of animals– goat, sheep, cattle (including yaks), camel and horse migrating from place to place following the most favorable pastures and campsites. Reindeers are bred by the Tsaatan people who live high up in the mountains of Khövsgöl lake bordering with Siberia of Russia.
A Horse is not only a prized possession of a Mongol but means of living and survival. The horse is what defies the nomadic culture where any herder can ride as well as her or she can walk. The small horses with big chests and short legs despite their size are incredibly resistant. They live all year around in semi wild herds, gathered only for the draft and the capture. They are partially watched over by herdsmen to defend only against the wolves in winter.
Airag or the fermented mare’s mils is praised for it’s benefit for health and the digestive system. Some airag from certain areas are more famous than the others depending on the grazing grounds and the skill of the maker. Airag holds the cultural and social value in Mongolia as wine in France.
Yaks and cows bring meat, leather and milk used for making a variety of dairy products such as yogurt, cheese and “aaruul” or dried curds that constitute.
The main diet of nomads during the summer months. Aaruul, cheese balls of different shapes and sizes dried on the roof of the ger, is used year around.
Sheep is the most common livestock used for meat, a basic staple of nomad’s diet. The skin and wool are used for clothing and making felt to insulate the gers. Goats are raised for their valuable cashmere (goat’s down), the highest quality cashmere in the world.
In Gobi regions, the two humped Bactrian camels are used for meat, milk and wool as well as for riding and transportation.
Nomads devote their day tending to their livestock watching over, milking, shearing, or combing to produce felt and felt clothes, cheese and other milk dairy products. Herders use uurga or lasso like pole to catch horses for taming or milking.