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Culture and Traditions

Mongolian Clothing

In Mongolia, young people favor western style clothes, many people wear cashmere and fur during the winter. But older Mongolians still wear the traditional deel (pronounced as del) in and outside of work. In the countryside most people also prefer the deel and gutuls (boots). They’re just more practical.


The deel is a calf length, loose tunic made of one piece of material. It has long sleeves, a high collar and buttons on the right shoulder. The buttons are either silver balls, or narrow strips of cloth tied into intricate knots. Deel is worn with a brightly colored sash. Deels have the same cut whether worn by men or women. Male deels are wider and made of more somber colors. Each ethnic group living in Mongolia has its own individual deel, distinguished by its cut, color and trimming. These distinctions go unnoticed by foreigners, but are obvious to Mongolians.
There are three different types of deel, each worn during a particular season. The dan deel is made of light, thin, brightly colored material and is only worn by women and only during the late spring and summer. The terleg is a slightly more padded version and is worn by both men and women. The winter deel is a serious, padded tunie, lined with shepskin or layers of raw cotton.


Gutuls are knee high, unheeled boots made from thick, stiff leather, decorated with leather applique. The toes of gutuls are upturned and several explanations have been offered for this unconventional style. One of the most plausible explanations is the religious motive. Lamas were traditionally forbidden from disturbing "the earth’s blessed sleep” i.e. kicking soil as they walked. The gutuls were designed to prevent them from harming the earth as they moved around on foot. Another explanation is that the unturned tip prevents a rider’s feet from slipping out of the stirrups. However, it’s also true that gutuls are so thick and rigid that if they were flat they would be almost impossible to walk in. These hefty boots are still worm in Ulaanbaatar and are particularly in the countryside.


With regards to hats, the fur-trimmed hats, mostly made of sable, are popular in urban Mongolia. The essential piece of headgear has two flaps, which can either be tied to the top of the hat, or lowered to cover the weare’s ears. Both men and women wear this fur hat.

Ger-Nomads’ Dwelling

A round wooden-framed felt tent covered in durable while canvas seems to be the most simple describtion on this portable home, familiar to many from the Russian word "yurt”. The modern shape of the Mongolianger has been formed as the result of the long development through huts, marquees and wheeled abodes.
During ancient tiems, people made shelters from dry branches and animal skins. This could have been the forst version of current Mongolian ger. The history of the ger goes back to 2500-3000 years BC. In medieval era large gers that belong to kings and nomadic chieftains were on special wheeled floors and were dragged by a number of oxen (22 was usual).
The Mongolian ger has two key components: the wooden frame work and the felt cover. The wooden wall shell is called "khana”, the upper wooden poles (measuring 1.5-3 meters) are "uni”, the central supporting two columns are known as "bagana” and the uppermost smoke hole is "toono”. A ger 4-12 khanas, depending on its size. The number of uni or upper poles ranges between 45 and 120 depending on the number of khanas. Any ger has a toono, the smoke hole and bagans, 2 columns supporting the toono.
These are several felt layers, covering the wooden frame and outer white canvas which is designed to make the ger look prettier and protect the felt covers from rain and snow.
Mongolian nomads, who move several times each year, pack their gers onto the back camels or camel and ox carts. The weight of a ger is approximately 250 kgs. It only takes half an hour to collapse an average ger and a bit longer to rebuild it.
Assembling of a ger is done in the following order.

  1. The collapsible wooden floor is laid.

  2. The khanas and the door are erected in circle and tied together with a long rope.

  3. Baganas, the two wooden columns are tied to the toono and erected in the center the circle.

  4. the toono and upper edges of the khanas are connected with unis, the long thin poles.

  5. Once the wooden frame work has been erected directly on the ground or wooden floor, it is overlaid with the cover, as well as, the outer while canvas.

  6. Then the felt and canvas covers are fastened with 2-3 girdles that keep them tight.

  7. The outer bottom edges of the flaps are covered with a long thin felt belt so that strong wind flow doesn’t go into the ger.

  8. The uppermost smoke hole is partly covered with rectangle felt, cover, which is used to totally cover the hole during the nights and harsh climate.

The door is always on the southern side facing the sunrise, providing more light inside the home. This is also designed not to let the northern wind into the ger through its door. However, Mongolians build their gers with the doors facing the door to the south, as it has become a long-rooted tradition, whether the wind is usually from the north or south.
There is appropriate rules on placing the furniture in the ger. The central area with stove, which is called "golomt” in Mongolian is the most respected part of a ger. The ger is divided into two areas. The western half is male section, while the eastern section is regarded to be female section. Male belonging including the family host’s bed is palced in western section. His saddles, bridles and other horse harness are also kept in this side. Women occupy the eastern side, where they keep their kitchen utensils, their own and their children’s belongings. It is customary for a guest entering a ger to step to the western side. The hoimor, which is directly opposite the door, is where the valuable objects are stored or displayed.
The ger furniture is well-known for its bright colored patterns drawn on red and yellowish backround. All the furnishings including beds, wardrobe, cupboard and even the cooking utensils bear such vivid multi-colored decorations.
While modern, western style houses are being built in Ulaanbaatar and other cities, rural Mongolians have retained their traditional ligestyle, of which the ger is an inteegral part. As a visitor, you have a chance to stay in this unique dwelling at one of the ger camps in the countryside or experience living way of Mongolian nomads by visiting their homes.


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Ulaanbaatar, MONGOLIA

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