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What noise does an angry Mongolian tent make?

Community Highlights Asia What noise does an angry Mongolian tent make?

Not a yurt and pronounced to rhyme with her, hair or here - the ger is a lot more spacious than you’d think. Inside there are usually some of the mod-cons you’d expect of a 21st century family; satellite TV, telephone and other solar powered electrical items. Yet the ger is essentially governed by the nomadic lifestyle their owners live.

Ger on the steppe

Ger on the steppe

Ger at sunset

Ger at sunset

Ger

Ger

A central wooden wagon wheel is held up by posts to provide height, whist the often intricately decorated spokes and the wooden lattice-work walls give the ger its shape. Covered in layers of felt and cloth it is quite weather proof and can keep you very snug and warm when it’s blowing a gale outside, especially when the fire is lit inside the metal box that sits immediately in front of the door. The ger can and is dismantled several times a year and moved on the back of an overloaded truck or yak to fresh pastures.

After a few visits to a ger we realised that there are some common features and customs to all gers. The internal layout follows a similar pattern with door facing south, beds on either side and further furniture (dressers, wardrobes, chests, tables) at the back. It always includes a small shrine adorned with Buddhist images and texts, family photos and an array of rather kitsch horse statuettes; the type that wouldn’t have looked out of place on my Gran’s sideboard.

Ger structure

Ger structure

Horsehair in ger

Horsehair in ger

Ger life

Ger life

Considering the nomadic lifestyle and reliance on their livestock as a source of all food, there would invariably be a range of different foodstuffs and instruments to aid in their production visible in the ger. A huge vat of fermenting mare’s milk (‘airag’) by the door, trays of drying curd cheese, a wooden contraption to distil ‘vodka’ from the fermented milk, ritual wooden spoons to flick milk offerings to the sky every morning, unidentifiable parts of goat or sheep hung to cure from any convenient hook and a large metal bowl of slowly simmering mutton provide you with a complete picture. Yet it is the smell that lingers. Close, I imagine, to that of a sweaty, smokey dairy that had been wrapped in a massive blanket to fester for a while, I got quite used to it!

When inside we were expected to follow a few simple rules. Leaning over or standing on the threshold was considered rude, as was crossing your legs when eating. We slept with our feet towards the door and respected the family’s treasured possessions, especially those on the altar and the horse hair hanging from the central anchor rope – each taken as a memento of a favourite horse. Other, more ‘western’, social norms were not observed. You entered without knocking and could expect to share the food and drink available – Mongolian hospitality is rightly renowned.

Curing meat

Curing meat

Our hosts for the night

Our hosts for the night

Inside a ger

Inside a ger

I have many fond memories of nights spent in a ger; sharing a single bed to keep warm, watching Korean soap operas dubbed into Mongolian, the stars, the poos with views but right now my lasting memory is a lesson learned on our final night in a ger. If you should trip, the metal fire box that keeps you snug and warm, should not, if at all possible, be used to break your fall…

Ouch!

Ouch!

Off to China nursing sore hand.

This featured blog entry was written by stuartfinch from the blog Somewhere Over The Urals..
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By stuartfinch

Posted Tue, Sep 17, 2013 | Mongolia | Comments