Mongolia is truly one of the world's last undiscovered travel destinations and the safest country to visit. It is a land where you can experience wide-open spaces, cobalt blue skies, forests, deserts, crystal clear rivers and lakes, and the traditional hospitality of the nomads. Permanent dwellings are few and far between, fences even fewer and the land is owned by the people, like one large National Park. As a tremendous destination to experience the outdoors, Mongolia also boasts of unique history dating back to the Mongol Empire of Genghis Khan. Simply put, it is a land of adventure, horses, nomads, and blue sky.
Mongolian Culture and Nomads
Two elements that are essential to the nomads are the “ger” (a Mongolian yurt) and livestock.The first is a transportable home that allows the family to move in sync with the seasons; the second caters for all other needs (food, fuel and transport).The wealth of a nomadic family is measured by the number of livestock it owns. Horses are revered as they are the main mode of transport. A Mongolian proverb says “a man without a horse is like a bird without wings”. Like every other nomadic culture, Mongolian culture is well-known for its hospitality. Upon guests’ arrival, traditional offerings and treats are served – dairy products in the summer time, and meat in the winter. Traditionally a Mongolian, even during his absence, will leave his ger unlocked, in order to allow any passer-by to rest and enjoy the treats which are left on the table for visitors.
Mongolians traditionally lead a pastoral, nomadic lifestyle. Because of the climate and short growing season, animal husbandry defines the nomadic lifestyle, with agriculture playing a secondary role. Nomads raise five types of animals – goats, sheep, cattle (including yaks), camels and horses – that provide meat, dairy products, transportation, and wool. Of these animals, the horse holds the highest position in Mongolian tales and legends.
As one of the only remaining horse-based cultures left in the world, Mongolians greatly cherish their horses. Outside the capital, the horse is still the main mode of transportation.
Children begin riding as soon as they can sit up. Nomads are extremely proud of their riding skills and horse racing is a favorite pastime. Believing the race to be a test of the animal’s and not the rider’s ability, young children are often the jockeys. The most prestigious tests of these superb animals are the horse races at the Naadam Festival, Mongolia’s national games, which takes place each July. Fa milies will travel for days to be able to participate or just attend this grand event.
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