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Mongolia is located between China and Russia. Its capital is Ulaanbaatar. The official language of this parliamentary republic is the Mongolian and their currency is the tugrik.
Its area is thrice the one of France, on which 2.8 million inhabitants are living. Mongolia has the lowest population density in the world: 1.7 people per km2.
More than half of the population lives in the capital and its surroundings. The other half is nomadic.
To the south is located The Gobi Desert, steppes in the center and forested mountains to the north (Altai). The climate is harsh in winter to -58 °F/-50°C, and hot in summer with more than 104°F/40 °C. Mongolia is touched by very different climatic conditions (continental climate): cold, hot, windy, snowy, rainy. The yurt is thus constructed to face all those conditions. Imagine how tough it is!
In the 13th century, it stood out as the most dominant empire in the world. Genghis Khan was to lead the greatest conquests, federating the Mongolian troops, making them progress up to the borders of present-day Turkey. The Mongolian Empire was then created. Wars with China were frequent and tough.
Genghis Khan depiction is still very present in the country (sculptures, paintings ...). Although Mongolian people admit that he asserted himself as a bloody conqueror, Genghis Khan remains a symbol of strength and conquest they are very proud of.
After Genghis Khan, the empire lost importance and China regained power over Mongolia. Two autonomous regions of China were then created: Inner Mongolia (has remained Chinese since then) and Outer Mongolia (independent country nowadays).
In 1911, Mongolia took independence, making the most of revolts in China.
It has been acknowledged by China since 1949.
The Soviet Union maintained presence and strong influence on Mongolia. The Buddhist religion was repressed, Mongolian alphabet was replaced by Cyrillic alphabet...
In 1989 with the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the USSR, Russian trusteeship came to an end giving complete independence to Mongolia.
Life in Mongolia is still tough for a large proportion of the population. Poverty is very present and harsh life in the countryside makes some nomadic people move to the capital and settle in its surroundings. Ulaanbaatar is now surrounded by a very large suburb mainly made of sedentary yurts. Actually it is very impressive to look at the capital from the surrounding hills, you will see the city center with concrete buildings and a giant set of intertwined yurts and fences. Unemployment is widespread, pollution as well.
The few nomads who still remain in the country are threatened by the steady loss of their herds because of the severe cold winter. The last cold of 2010, called Dzud, killed about 6 million animals, forcing some shepherds to abandon everything.
Poverty is a reality to consider in parallel with the fulgurating growth of Mongolia since 2010 (+7%). Major gold and copper mines were recently discovered and investors are contending together for their quarrying. Wages are starting to rise and several important international companies are located in the heart of Ulaanbaatar.
The religion of the country is Tibetan Buddhism. Animism is the most common belief in Mongolia. It consists in crediting elements (objects, plants, animals ...) with a soul that man must respect. Shamanism, which derives from this belief, involves the action to come into contact with these souls and interact. The shaman is responsible for this link between elements and human beings.
Religious ceremonies are very present in the daily life of Mongolian people. It is much protected. As a guest you will very rarely be invited to share these rituals taking place in a yurt or in different temples of the country.
In the everyday life it is not that surprising to see a mother blessing the place of the yurt, the departure of a man for a long way, or the acquisition of a horse. She makes an offering to the spirits by sending with the ring-finger, few drops of milk in the air.
The « Ovoo », pile of stones adorned with strips of colored material, to be found almost everywhere on the edge of Mongolian trails, symbolize places to worship that passerby mustn't ignore. If you have time you will do as Mongols do: walking thrice around the pile of stones clockwise. And if you are in a hurry, your driver will always have the reflex to honk at the sight of an Ovoo, to have a little thought for the spirits.
Music and song : music is a very important element in the everyday life of Mongols. Overtone singing, Khöömi, exercises a certain fascination because it allows the singer is able to produce two different and simultaneous sounds, effects of nasal resonance and vocal cords are superimposed. Singers are inspired by sounds of nature.
Many traditional musical instruments is also present: the most symbolic one is the «Moriin-Khuur», the horse-fiddle. His name is that it mimics the gait of the horse. Two horsehair strings and a wooden framed sound box.
Sport : the national sport is wrestling. Major championships are held throughout the country, but you can find this practice in the daily games of children as well. They don't hesitate, with good humor, to roll over the ground. A feature of Mongolian wrestling is the absence of weight class. The goal is to force the opponent to place his knee, his back or his bottom to the ground, using traditional movements.
Horse racing and archery are also practiced, mainly during the annual celebration of Naadam.
The national holiday Naadam :It is the celebration of Mongolian independence. It takes place each July 11 and 12 of the year. The three major sports are represented Mongolian wrestling, archery and horse racing.
Horses race are very peculiar, specifically the children one, revealing the resourcefulness of youth. They ride horses without saddle, bareback, and gallop several miles through the countryside. Children can already be pre-teens, but some may only have few years. It is an honor for all families to be represented by their children during this race. And an even greater honor to win it.