One of the most common meals in Mongolia, particularly in small cafes or fast-food restaurants, is Khuushuur, fried pies/pasties usually made with minced beef or mutton, but available in veggie form in some places (we found a cabbage/carrot version, and a delicious potato version). Plain meat can be a bit bland, and they are occasionally made with spices which can be quite hot!
Accompanied with local tea - made with salt and butter!
There are alternatives to Khuushur, called Buuz and Bansh - they are made from exactly the same ingredients, the only difference is size, shape and method of cooking! Buuz are small, like dumplings, and steamed, while Bansh are boiled rather than fried.
In Mongolia more than 90% of the population is Buddhist, Originally comes from Tibet in sixteenth Century. All around Mongolia used to have more than seven hundred temples and buddhist complexs But unfortunately almost all of them were distroyed during the Communist Purge in 1937 and many monks were killed as well. Just few temples were kept as original shape in reason to serve as musuems instead of practising buddhism. Gandan Monastery is the biggest active monastery in Mongolia many local people are coming from every corner of mongolia to pray and practise buddhism in Gandan Monastery. There are several big festivals during the Lunar New Year in Winter.
Another Big complex of temples are Erdene Zuu Monastery which locates in Khar Khorin well known as Ancient Mongolian Capital Town.
I grew up with a fireplace in my home but my boyfriend didn't but he mastered the fire building in our Ger. It gets really cold during the night in the Ger so it's important to keep the fire going which we did NOT master during out stay. One night we froze to death and the other night we were sweating our asses off.
They say don't stroke the dogs in Mongolia, as they are responsible for guarding the house/ger and family and aren't used to being pets. No-one seems to mind, however, and the dogs absolutely love it and will beg for more! Possibly best to keep it to a minimum unless you want a crowd of affection hungry mutts following you around!
If someone pours a drink for you, don't reach for it before they hand it to you, wait for them to offer it. Never take it with your left hand, only the right, and it's even better if you support your right arm with your left hand on the elbow.
If you're drinking while travelling (believe me this is quite likely), the first shot of vodka should be thrown to the winds (in 3 or 4 bursts) for good luck - it's quite acceptable to chuck it out the window, though if you have time at the start of the journey, get out of the vehicle and do it properly. If you pass any ovoos, you'll probably do the same again.
The earliest religion of the Mongols was shamanism, and it's still practiced today.
An ovoo is a pile of stones and animal bones and skulls. It's seen everywhere in Mongolia - especially in the National parks, but also in Ulaanbaatar. The ovoo is a part of the shaman religion.
We arrived at the Hustai National Park Ger camp at about lunchtime after driving from Gorkhi-Terelj National Park and through the middle of a busy UB. Just as we approached the national park's main gate, a nomadic family were trying to enter their small truck, complete with packed ger on the back, through the gates but the poles of the ger were sticking out of the sides of the truck making it very difficult to squeeze through the gate. It was good to see a nomadic family on the move and it was the only one I saw during my stay in Mongolia.
There are normally six categories of horse racing depending on the age of horses: for example, a two-year-old horse, called a shudlen, will race for 15km, while six and
seven-year-old azrag and ikh nas horses race for up to 30km. There are no tracks or courses; it is just open countryside. Jockeys - boys and girls aged between 5 and 13 years old - prepare for months for special races, particularly at Naadam. Horses are fed a special diet for weeks beforehand. The competition is not without its dangers: in 1999 a young rider was tragically killed during one of the horse races. Before a race, the audience, all decked out in traditional finery, often sings traditional songs. The young riders sing a traditional anthem called a gingo before the race, and scream 'goog' at the horses during the race. The winner is declared tumnii ekh, or 'leader of ten thousand' which the last horse is given the title 'Complete happiness'. The last two year old horse is given the title 'Rich stomach' and praised together with the winning horse.
Archers use a bent composite bow made of layered horn, bark and wood. Usually, arrows are made from willows and the feathers are from vultures and other birds of prey. Traditionally dressed male archers stand 75m from the target, while women archers stand 60m from it. The target is a line of up to 360-round gray, red and/or yellow leather rings (known as sur) on the ground. Usually there are only about 20 or 30 rings. After each shot, special judges who stand near the target (but miraculously never get injured) emit a short cry called a uukhai and raise their hands in the air to indicate the quality of the shot. The winner who hits the targets the most times is declared the best archer or mergen.
I started watching the wrestling at the beginning of day 2 (July 12th). Mongolian wrestling is similar to wrestling found elsewhere, except there are no weight divisions, so the biggest wrestlers (and they are big!) are often the best. Mongolian wrestling also has no time limit- the bout will continue with short breaks. It will end only when the first wrestler falls, or when anything other than the soles of the feet or open palms touch the
Each year some 35,000 wrestlers take part in regional heats before 512 go through to the first round of nine at Naadam. Before each elimination bout, wrestlers limber up and honour the judges and their individual attendants (zasuul) with a short dance called a devekh, or 'eagle dance'. After the bout, the loser must perform the takhimaa ogokh, walking under the right arm of the winner, who then makes a lap of honour around the flag on a pedestal and does some more eagle dancing. The gesture signifies peace between the two wrestlers.
Wrestlers wear heavy boots called gutui - similar to the traditional boots worn by ordinary Mongolians. The tight, unflattering pants are called shuudag, and the small
vest across the shoulders is a zodog. The open-fronted vest was allegedly introduced after one Amazonian-sized female wrestler floored all the male wrestlers. When it was discovered she was a woman the vest was introduced to ensure that women would no longer take part in bouts (and thrash the men!).
Winners are bestowed glorious titles depending on how many rounds they win. These are nachin (falcon) - five rounds; zaan (elephant) - seven rounds; and arslan (lion) - given to the winner of the tournament. When an arslan, or lion, wins two years in a row he becomes an avarga, or titan. One renowned wrestler was given the most prestigious and lengthy title of the 'Eye-Pleasing Nationally Famous Mighty and Invincible Giant'!
The biggest event of the Mongolian year for foreigners and locals alike is the Naadam Festival held in during three days in July. Part family reunion, part fair and part nomad Olympics, Naadam (meaning 'holiday' or 'festival') has its roots in the nomad assemblies and hunting extravaganzas of the Mongol armies. The communists renamed the festival People's Revolution Day and fixed it to July 11th to 13th, on the anniversary of the Mongolian Revolution of 1921 and this festival still takes place between these dates today.
Wrestling, archery and horse racing are held during the first and second days. Day one of the Naadam Festival (July 11th) starts at about 9am with a fantastic, colourful ceremony outside the State Parliament House at Sukhbaatar Square. Chinggis Khaan's nine yak tails, representing the nine tribes of the Mongols, are ceremonially transported from Sukhbaatar Square to Naadam Stadium to open the festivities. The opening ceremony, which starts at about 11am at the Naadam Stadium, includes an impressive march of monks and athletes, plenty of music and even parachute displays. The closing ceremony, with more marches and dancing, is held at about 7pm on the second day, but the exact time depends on when the wrestling finishes.
Naadam is properly known as Eriyn Gurvan Naadam, after the three 'manly' sports of wrestling, archery and horse racing (though women participate in the first two events). The first round of the wrestling, which starts at about noon on day one in the main stadium, is the more interesting and photogenic. Archery is held in an open stadium next to the main stadium. The judges, who raise their arms and utter a traditional cry to indicate the quality of the shot are often more entertaining than the archery itself. The horse racing is held at the village of Yarmag, about 10km along the main road to the airport - it is very easy to spot. You should be able to pick up tickets for each day fairly easily by going to a tour company - I went to mine called Black Ibex who got me 2 tickets (one for the morning and one for the afternoon on day 2) that cost a total of T7,000.
This is a common scene in Mongolia. There are various methods used for sheep herding such as on motorbikes, by horse or by foot. Herdsman use a variant of the lasso called an uurga which consists of a rope loop at the end of a long pole.
The traditional Mongolian Cuisine primarily consists of dairy products and meat. The nomads of Mongolia sustain their lives directly from the products of their animals (horses, cattle, yaks, camels, sheep, and goats). Cooking in the ger normally happens in a wok on a small stove using wood or dried animal dung (argal) as heating material.
Two of the most popular foods that I ate in Mongolia were buuz and khuushuur. Buuz are dumplings filled with meat, usually mutton, which are then steam cooked. Khuushuur is a kind of meat pastry where the meat is placed inside the dough creating a flat half-circular pocket shape. After making the pockets, the cook fries them in oil until the dough turns a golden brown. The khuushuur is then served hot, and can be eaten by hand.
Milk products are produced in great quantities. Aaruul is made from mare's milk and is then dried into a hard curd in the sunlight on top of the ger. It's extremely sour and bitter and certainly wasn't to my liking. My guide, however, loved them and took with her a bag of them after we visited a family, one time. Also made from mare's milk is airag, which is fermented and slightly alcoholic. The everyday beverage is salted milk tea known as suutei Tsai which you'll probably be offered if you visit a nomadic family. To drink with your tea are Mongolian cookies called boortsog.
We set off one morning during my 12-day tour around Mongolia and stopped off at this herding family who were sheering there sheep and goats, all by hand, of course. The family consisted of a husband and wife with her mother who was 70. They had 3 daughters - aged 12, 14, and 16. They around 300 of sheep and goats and we were told that they make some 30,000 togrogs per kilo for the goat fleece, otherwise known as cashmere. Each goat provides 5-700g of wool. We were lucky to see them being sheered as it only happens once a year. A couple of days later we were lucky to see more being sheared in an enclosed paddock.
I was very impressed with Mongolian beer and, I have to say, I sampled many different types with my favourite being Sengur. Others include Chinggis which is draft and quite strong; Mongol which is another draft but not as strong as Chinggis; Borgio - a bottled beer in three varieties, regular, gold and light and Tiger, which is like the Japanese one.
I stayed here for a couple of nights - the first and last night’s of my Mongolian tour. This 4-star...more
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Sukhbaatar Square 14, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
Good for: Families
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