Nomadic life in Mongolia
With over 900,000 nomads living in the wonderful steppes of Mongolia, Mongolian nomads are one of the largest and the last remaining nomadic cultures in the world. They live in small circular temporary yurts, popularly called as “Gers” in Mongolia, and move from one place to another six to eight times every year. For moving in the countryside, they solely depend on the horses, camels, or yaks to transport their goods.
Mongolian nomads are primarily pastoral herders who depend on rearing sheep, goats, horses, yaks, and camels for their livelihood. But the changing economy and climate have affected their lifestyle to a great extent. Many of them now have modern electronics like satellite television, refrigerator, and washing machines at their homes which are powered by solar panels. As climate change has affected the grasslands and livestock, many of them are looking for alternate income sources in mining and manufacturing industries.
If there is one thing that hasn’t changed with changing times is the hospitality of the nomads. Every year, thousands of tourists visit Mongolia to escape their busy city lives and experience a nomadic way of life. These activities are generally organised by the guest houses and tour operators based in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia’s capital.
Activities while living in a Ger with a Mongolian family
Mongolians have been hosting guests from far-off lands since the times of Silk Road trades. Their hospitality still reflects in their culture as they easily mix up with travellers. So you can open up with them to better experience and understand their way of life. You can play outdoor games with children, and sing and laugh with the elders. Learn some Mongolian card games and join them to watch Korean drama television. Go for a camel ride with the family and explore the Gobi desert. You can even socialize with the family camels and yaks, and try your hand at milking them!
While living with the Mongolian nomads, you are devoid of several necessities which you are accustomed to in your daily modern lives. This includes proper accommodation, mobile and internet network, and even toilets! This is a great way to understand the fragile and primitive way of life of the nomads.
Foods you can expect
An integral part of discovering the Mongolian nomadic culture is savouring their food. The first thing that you are served as a guest is tea which is again served multiple times in a day. A typical meal constitutes mainly of cattle products like meat, milk, and dried yoghurt of goats, yaks, and camels. The nomads have some really interesting, yet quirky drinks- Airag, which is fermented mare’s milk and camel milk vodka, which is usually served after breakfast. If their name doesn’t sound peculiar enough, their taste surely will!
Things to bring
Don’t forget to take your own toilet paper along with your personal belongings. It is recommended to bring candies, sea shells, or other specialties from your home as presents for the family.
Travelling in Mongolian countryside through the nomadic settlements is travelling as much in time as in space. It is a journey which would take you back in time and would open a vista into a way of life completely different from our modern world.