Mongolia in Brief

Mongolia is truly one of the world’s last undiscovered travel destinations and the safest country to visit. It is a land where you can experience wide-open spaces, cobalt blue skies, forests, deserts, crystal clear rivers and lakes, and the traditional hospitality of the nomads. Permanent dwellings are few and far between, fences even fewer and the land is owned by the people, like one large National Park. As a tremendous destination to experience the outdoors, Mongolia also boasts of unique history dating back to the Mongol Empire of Genghis Khan. Simply put, it is a land of adventure, horses, nomads, and blue sky.

BASIC INFORMATION

Population: 3 million

Area: 1,566000 sq km (610,740 sq mi)

Land boundaries: 8,158 km, with Russia 3,485 km and with China 4,673 km

Altitude: Average altitude is 1,580 m above sea level with highest point Huiten Peak at Altai Tavan Bogd at 4,374 m above sea level and lowest point being Huh Nuur depression at 560 m altitude.

Terrain: Mountain steppes in central and northern regions, high mountains in west and vast semi-desert and desert plains in the south

People: Khalkha Mongols (86%), over 20 smaller Mongolian ethnic groups and Kazaks (6%)

Languages: Official language is Mongolian. Russian is other major language is used. English is widely spoken in Ulaanbaatar.

Religions: Tibetan Buddhism, Muslim, Christian and Shamanism

Climate: Relatively dry with extreme continental temperatures. Average summer temperature + 20 C, Average winter temperature -23 C, average rainfall 200-220 mm. Winter lasts from November to mid March, Spring April through May, Summer from June through to September.

Economy: Traditionally based on agriculture, livestock breeding (camels, cattle, horses, goats and sheep), mining (coal, gold, copper and uranium).

Political system: Parliamentary republic. State Great Khural (Parliament), with 76 members elected for four years. The last election was held in July, 2012. President elected for four years. Present President was elected in 2013. Prime Minister appointed by State Great Khural for four years.

Judicial system: Mongolian judicial system consists of Constitutional Court, Supreme Court, Aimag and capital city courts, Soum and district courts.

State structure: Mongolia is unitary state and divided administratively into Aimags (21) and a capital city; Aimags are subdivided into soums; soums into bags; and a capital city into districts; districts into khoroos.

National currency: Tugrug (MNT), USD 1 equals approx. 1880 tugrugs as of Jan 2015.

Public holidays: December 31-January 1-New Year, 3 days in January/ February-Mongolia New Year (Tsagaan Sar), June 1- Mother and Children day, July 11-13-National Holiday (Naadam)

Time: Add 8 hour to Greenwich Mean Time

Normal working hours: 08.00-12.00 and 13.00-17.00

Electric current: 220 volts/ 50 HZ

Visa arrangements: Visa shall be issued by Mongolian Embassies and Diplomatic Missions as well as Honorary consuls of Mongolia, or can be obtained at the airport at a cost of US 53$ but must be accompanied by an invitation.Visa

GEOGRAPHY

Mongolia lies between Russia to the North and China to the South. The total land of area is 1,566,000 square kilometers- Mongolia is the 19th largest and the most sparsely populated independent country in the world, with a population of around 3 million people. It is also the world’s second-largest landlocked country after Kazakhstan. The geography of the country is characterized by great diversity. From north to south, it can be divided into four areas: mountain-forest steppe, mountain steppe and, in the extreme south, semi-desert and desert (the latter being about 30% of the entire territory). In contrast to most visitors’ expectations, much of the country’s territory is mountainous. The principal mountains are concentrated in the west, with much of this region having elevations above 2,000 meters. The country’s highest peaks are permanently snow-capped land covered with glaciers.
Mountains and dense forest dominate central and northern Mongolia. The grasslands cover large areas of this region. Across the eastern part of the country stretches the vast grasslands of the Central Asian steppe. The steppe grades into the Gobi desert, which extends throughout southern Mongolia from the east to the west of the country. The Gobi Desert is mostly gravely, but also contains large areas of sand dunes in the drier areas of the Gobi near the southern border. The highest point in Mongolia is Nayramadlin Orgil (also known as Mt.Khuiten), at 4,374 meters (14,350 feet). The lowest point is Huh Nuur, at 560 meters (1,700 feet).

Culture of Mongolia

Culture of Mongolia

The Culture of Mongolia has been heavily influenced by the Mongol nomadic way of life. The nomadic way of lifestyle is still practiced today in the rural areas of the country. Nomads follow a seasonal routine raising and breeding the five main types of stock – goat, sheep, cattle (including yaks), camel and horse, migrating from place to place following the most favorable pastures and campsites. Other important influences are from Tibet and Tibetan Buddhism, and from China. Since the 20th century, Russian and, via Russia, European cultures have had a strong effect on Mongolia.

Language

The Mongolian language is the official language of Mongolia. It belongs to the Ural-Altaic language family, which includes Kazakh, Turkish, Korean and Finnish. Today more than 10 million people speak Mongolian. They live in Mongolia, Buriat republic of Russian federation, Inner Mongolia in China, Shingjan and Gansu regions of China, Tibet and even a few number of people living in the State of New Jersey in the USA . In Mongolia, the Khalkha dialect, written in Cyrillic, is predominant. The classical Mongolian script, also known as Uyghurjin, was the first writing system created specifically for the Mongolian language, and was the most successful until the introduction of Cyrillic in 1946.

Religion

Shamanism – Shamanism goes back in Mongolian history long before Chinggis Khan’s time, but it was Chinggis Khan that made it into such a fundamental part of the Mongolian tradition. At that time the Mongolians were worshipped “Hoh Tenger” (blue skies). According to this belief the skies are the father, and the earth is the mother of all beings in the universe. As a civilization totally dependent on the forces of nature, the Mongolians worshipped the various elements of nature, praying to their ancestors who have transformed into mythical spiritual animals to provide them with good weather, health and success. Though oppressed during communist time, Shamanism is still practiced in Mongolia, and people who seek help will approach a Shaman for a blessing or cure and even to get hints about their future.

Buddhism- Mongolians have followed Buddhism since the 16th century, when the Mongolian king, Altan Khan, was converted by Tibetan lamas. Mongolians follow Tibetan Buddhist teachings, (also called Lamaism), the body of religious Buddhist doctrine and institutions characteristic of Tibet and the Himalayan region. Today, Mongolia still embraces its Buddhist heritage. Monasteries are being restored, and are once again crowded with worshippers. The Dalai Lama is an enormously popular figure and has visited the country several times. For many Mongolians, the practice of Buddhism is flavored with traces of Shamanism, an even more ancient spirituality.

Other Religions– Mongolia also has a small Muslim community — about 6 per cent of the population. These are mostly ethnic Kazakhs living in the far west of the country.

Arts

Mongolian traditional music composes a wide range of instruments and uses for the human voice found almost nowhere else. For instance, the Mongol Khoomii may be fascinating for foreigners. It is a musical, which can be delivered with a help of a guttural voice and specific way of breathing. One tone comes out as a whistle-like sound, the result of the locked breath in the chest being forced out through the throat in a specific way, while a lower tone sounds as a base.

The unique traditional singing style is known as or long Urtiin duu or long songs. It is one of the most ancient genres of Mongolian musical art, a professional classical art of the 13th century. Urtiin duu involves extraordinarily complicated, drawn-out vocal sounds. It has philosophical style, evocative of vast, wide spaces and it demands great skill and talent from the singers in their breathing abilities and guttural singing techniques.

Morin Khuur

Another popular form of art in Mongolia is the playing of the Morin Khuur, the Horse Headed Fiddle. It is used in Khoomii singing and in other forms of traditional music. The origins of the Morin Khuur lie with the Chinese two-stringed fiddle. With its typical horse-head carving crowning the instrument, it plays a major part in all classic Mongolian forms of music. To this day people of all ages play it

Mongolia in Brief

Mongolian Food and Drinks

Mongolian cuisine is much influenced by the continental climate that dominates the region, and also a bit by the Russian and Chinese cultures. Meat and dairy form the staple diet of this nomadic cuisine, with the use of vegetables being limited. The meat of horse, yak, beef, lamb and even camel is consumed as delicacies.

Some traditional dishes:
Dairy products in Mongolia food variety differ greatly in terms of their taste. These products are called ‘tsagaan idee’ and include a lot of milk. The inclusion of milk denoted purity, kindness and unselfishness. Other ingredients include aaruul (dried curd) and urum (thick cream), Mongolian butter and kefir or soft yogurt

 

Dairy products

 

 

 

 

Airag 

AiragAirag is the traditional national beverage of Mongolia. The most important animal of the Mongols is the horse. Horses don’t only serve as riding animals, the mare’s milk also has a special status. Airag refreshens and sparkles softly on the tongue. It contains a small amount of carbon dioxide, and up to 2% of alcohol. The taste is slightly sour, but quite agreeable after getting used to it. The exact taste depends both of the characteristics of the pastures and the exact method of production. The beverage is a rich source of vitamins and minerals for the nomads.

 

 

 

Buuz

Mongolian_buuzBuuz are filled with minced mutton or beef, which is flavoured with onion and/or garlic and salted. Occasionally, they are flavoured with sprouted fennel seeds and other seasonal herbs. Mashed potato, cabbage, or rice may be added as well.

The meat ball is then placed inside a small pocket of dough which is folded around the ball with a small opening at the top and in the chef’s own personal style. The buuz is then steamed and eaten by hand, with the dough pocket catching the juices of the meat

 

Khuushuur

KhuushuurKhuushuur (Mongolian: хуушууp [xʊ́ːʃʊr]) is a kind of meat pastry or dumpling popular in Mongolia, similar to Russian and other cuisines’ chiburekki. The meat, either beef or mutton, is ground up and mixed with onion (or garlic), salt and other spices. The cook rolls the dough into circles, then places the meat inside the dough and folds the dough in half, creating a flat half-circular pocket. The cook then closes the pockets by pressing the edges together. A variety of Khuushuur has a round shape made by pressing the dough and mince together using the dough roller.

After making the pockets, the cook fries them in oil until the dough turns a golden brown. The Khuushuur is then served hot, and can be eaten by hand.

At the Naadam Festival in Ulan Bator, there were a large number of stalls selling freshly made khuusuur which were snapped up in high numbers by locals gathering to watch the games.

 

Mongolian traditional food khorkhog

 

Mongolian traditional food khorkhog
Khorkhog (Mongolian: Xopxoг) is a barbecue dish in Mongolian cuisine. Khorkhog (horhog) is made by cooking pieces of meat inside a container which also contains hot stones and water, and is often also heated from the outside
Preparation
To make khorkhog, Mongolians take lamb (goat meat can be substituted) and cut it into pieces of convenient size, leaving the bone. Then the cook puts ten to twenty fist-sized rocks in a fire. When the rocks are hot enough, the rocks and the meat are placed in the chosen cooking container. Metal milk jugs are a traditional choice, although any container sturdy enough to hold the hot rocks will serve.
The cook adds other ingredients as desired (carrots, cabbage, potatoes) to make a stew, then adds salt and other spices. The ingredients should be layered, with the vegetables on top. Finally the cook pours in a sufficient quantity of water to create a steam bubble inside the jug, which he then closes with a lid.
The heat of the stones and the steam will cook the meat inside the jug. The cook can also put the jug on a fire or the stove if the stones are not hot enough. The stones will turn black from the heat and the fat they absorb from the lamb. The jug should remain covered while the cook listens to and smells the meal to judge when it is ready. The stones can take up to an hour and a half to cook the meat sufficiently. When finished, the khorkhog is ready to eat. The cook hands out portions of meat along with the hot stones which are tossed from hand to hand and are said to have beneficial properties. Diners usually eat khorkhog with their fingers, although one can use a knife to slice the meat off the bone

Suutei Tsai

Suutei tsaiThe Suutei tsai or tea with milk is the most consumed drink of Mongolia and you will be proposed some each time you’ll visit a Mongolian family. Once in the yurt, it’s the first thing you’ll be proposed, and you’ll have to accept the cup with your right hand (in the same way as for airag) and put it to your mouth before putting it on the table.

The tea with milk is made with cow milk mixed with water and black tea leaves. It’s lightly salted and sometimes serves as base for a soup, for example banshtai tsai, tea with raviolis inside.

 

 

About Ulaanbaatar

Ulaanbaatar, (Mongolian:  literally “Red Hero”) is Mongolia’s capital and largest city. A municipality, the city is not part of any aimag (province), and its population as of 2014 was over 1.3 million, almost half of the country’s total population.

Located in north central Mongolia, the municipality lies at an elevation of about 1,310 meters (4,300 ft) in a valley on the Tuul River. It is the country’s cultural, industrial and financial heart, the centre of Mongolia’s road network and connected by rail to both the Trans-Siberian Railway in Russia and the Chinese railway system.

The city was founded in 1639 as a nomadic Buddhist monastic center. In 1778, it settled permanently at its present location, the junction of the Tuul and Selbe rivers. Before that, it changed location twenty-eight times, with each location being chosen ceremonially. In the twentieth century, Ulaanbaatar grew into a major manufacturing center.

Geography and climate
Ulaanbaatar is located at about 1,350 meters (4,430 ft) above mean sea level, slightly east of the centre of Mongolia on the Tuul River, a subtributary of the Selenge, in a valley at the foot of the mountain Bogd Khan Uul. Bogd Khan Uul is a broad, heavily forested mountain rising 2,250 meters (7,380 ft) to the south of Ulaanbaatar. It forms the boundary between the steppe zone to the south and the forest-steppe zone to the north.

It is also one of the oldest reserves in the world, being protected by law since the 18th century. The forests of the mountains surrounding Ulaanbaatar are composed of evergreen pines, deciduous larches and birches while the riverine forest of the Tuul River is composed of broad-leaved, deciduous poplars, elms and willows. As a point of reference Ulaanbaatar lies on roughly the same latitude as Vienna, Munich and Orléans. It lies on roughly the same longitude as Chongqing, Hanoi and Jakarta.

Owing to its high elevation, its relatively high latitude, its location hundreds of kilometres from any coast, and the effects of the Siberian anticyclone, Ulaanbaatar is the coldest national capital in the world, with a monsoon-influenced, cold semi-arid climate (Köppen BSk, USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 3b) that closely borders a subarctic climate (Dwc) and warm-summer humid continental (Dwb).

The city features brief, warm summers and long, bitterly cold and dry winters. The coldest January temperatures, usually at the time just before sunrise, are between −36 and −40 °C (−32.8 and −40.0 °F) with no wind, due to temperature inversion. Most of the annual precipitation of 267 millimetres (10.51 in) falls from June to September. The highest recorded precipitation in the city was 659 millimetres or 25.94 inches at the Khureltogoot Astronomical Observatory on Mount Bogd Khan Uul. Ulaanbaatar has an average annual temperature of −0.4 °C or 31.3 °F, making it the coldest capital in the world.

The city lies in the zone of discontinuous permafrost, which means that building is difficult in sheltered aspects that preclude thawing in the summer, but easier on more exposed ones where soils fully thaw. Suburban residents live in traditional yurts that do not protrude into the soil. Extreme temperatures in the city range from −42.2 °C (−44.0 °F) in January and February 1957 to 39.0 °C (102.2 °F) in July 1988.

Mongolian Nomads

Mongolia’s vast steppe is home to one of the world’s last surviving nomadic cultures. Situated between China and Russia, the Mongolian steppe remains mostly intact, and its nomadic way of life has been largely unchanged for generations. Some herding customs alive today pre-date the era of Genghis Khan. Slowly, however, the steppe’s landscape is changing, as more and more of its nomadic population move to urban areas in search of education, employment, and modern conveniences. Indeed, modernity attracts not only those Mongolians who have moved to the city, but also those who have chosen to continue with their nomadic lifestyle.

Today the nomads who remain on the steppe combine old traditions with new means. They continue their lifestyle as pastoral herders, but many use motorbikes to herd cattle and horses. To move their homes, trucks have taken the place of ox carts. With the growing use of motorbikes and trucks, gas stations now begin to dot the landscape. Solar panels are becoming an addition to the traditional Mongolian home, the ger. The panels are a way for them to gain access to electricity without being confined to one place. The nomads use solar energy to power television sets, and to maintain the use of mobile phones, which, for parents, are the only way to stay in touch with their children attending boarding schools in the city. Mongolian children, whether from urban or rural backgrounds, conventionally study in the city. During the summer, children with rural family backgrounds return to the steppe to help their families maintain the herds, and some come back to live in the steppe after finishing their education.

With the rise of accessible technology, changes in lifestyle are almost inevitable. But these changes also help longstanding traditions thrive. Rather than abandoning their lives on the steppes, Mongolia’s nomads are adapting to modernization in their own way. This culture in transition reaps the conveniences of modern society, while keeping an ancient and fascinating lifestyle alive.

 


Mongolian Brief History

A large number of ethnicities have inhabited Mongolia since prehistoric times. Most of these people were nomads who, from time to time, formed confederations that rose to prominence. The first of these, the Xiongnu, were brought together to form a confederation by Modun Shanyu in 209 BC.

In 1206, Chinggis Khan (also known as Genghis Khan) founded the Mongol Empire, the largest empire in history. The Mongol Empire’s territory extended from present-day Poland in the west to the Korean peninsula in the east, from Siberia in the north to the Arab peninsula and Vietnam in the south, covering approximately 33 million square kilometers. In 1227, after Chinggis Khan’s death, the Mongol Empire was subdivided into four kingdoms. In 1260, Chinggis Khan’s grandson, Kublai Khan, ascended the throne of one of the four kingdoms that encompassed present-day Mongolia and China. In 1271, Kublai Khan formally established the Yuan Dynasty. The Yuan Dynasty was the first foreign dynasty to rule all of China until it was overthrown by the Chinese Ming Dynasty in 1368.

The Mongol court returned to its native land, however, centuries of internal conflict, expansion and contraction brought them fall into Manchu Qing dynasty. They conquered Inner Mongolia in 1636. Outer Mongolia was submitted in 1691. For the next two hundred years Mongolia was ruled by the Qing Dynasty until 1911. Mongolia declared its independence in 1911 under the Bogd Khan, the spiritual leader of Mongolia’s Tibetan Buddhism. However, the Chinese government still considered “Outer Mongolia” as part of it and invaded the country in 1919.

In 1921, People’s Revolution won in Mongolia with the help of the Russian Red Army and thus Mongolia became the second socialist country in the world. After Bogd Khan’s death in 1924, the Mongolian People’s Republic was proclaimed and the first Constitution was adopted.

Mongolia was under a Soviet-dominated Communist regime for almost 70 years, from 1921 to 1990. In the fall of 1989 and the spring of 1990, new currents of political thought began to emerge in Mongolia, inspired by the glasnost and perestroika in the Soviet Union and the collapse of the Communist regimes in Eastern Europe. In March 1990, a democratic revolution that started with hunger strikes to overthrow the Government led to the peaceful renouncement of communism. Mongolia’s renouncement of communism led to a multi-party system, a new constitution and a transition to a market economy.

Over the past two decades, Mongolia has transformed itself from a socialist country with a planned economy into a vibrant multi-party democracy with one of the world’s fastest growing economies.

Mongolia is the world’s second largest landlocked country and occupies a territory of 1.56 million square kilometers. Mongolia is located in Northern Asia, bordered by Russia in the north and China in the south, east and west. Mongolia is the world’s least densely populated country, with a population of more than 2.9 million people living in a vast area of 1.56 million square kilometers. Ulaanbaatar is Mongolia’s capital and largest city and home to approximately 45% of the country’s population.

Ethnic Mongols comprise approximately 94.9% of the population, Kazakh 5% and Turkic, Chinese and Russians make up the remaining population.

Buddhism is major religion in Mongolia with a small number of Muslims, Christians, and Shamans reside in Mongolia.

The official language is Mongolian and is spoken by 90% of the population. English is quickly replacing Russian as the most popular language following Mongolian. Many Mongolians also speak Korean, Japanese, Chinese, German and other western European languages.