Tuesday, 20 July 2010

people in and around Ulaanbaatar

Roughly 40% of the Mongolian population live in its capital Ulaanbaatar (some 1.2m people). About 20% live in the other various smaller towns dispersed around the vast country. The remainder are nomadic (over 1m people), that's a lot of nomads. It is a tough life that has changed little since the days of Chinggis Khaan in the 12th century. Almost all live in gers.
Gers are round thick canvas tents. They are designed to be resiliant yet transportable. Everything that needs to be done takes place inside the tent. Outdoors is often too daunting a prospect in Mongolia. Summer temperatures soar above 45C, in winter it plummets to -40C, a swing of some 80C!! The roof has a hole in its conical centre. A stove is lit in the tent for heating and cooking. Nomads sleep snuggled up together inside, take their meals together inside, undertake their ablutions and I suspect ensure the family line, all within sight and earshot of their extended family. The most important factor is warmth. Winter is the longest season and death needs to be avoided.
Despite the forced closeness family life in gers does contain its own more upbeat traditions and cultures. As is common worldwide alcohol plays an important part, generally vodka in Mongolia. Singing and playing musical instruments is surprisingly common and far more prevelant than in developed countries. It is a tough life. Herding horses and camels across the Gobi to market is not a life many can understand let alone choose. The nomads I have met remain resolutely upbeat. They know their way of life has outlived many others. They also know that the world is changing and that perhaps they are better suited than most to cope with some of the adversities that global warming will through at us.
Mongolian of the day:- cooking pot :: togoo