Mongolia- Land of Manly Skill

There were a few other Western girls on the dig, and one constant topic of conversation was how “manly” the Mongolian men were. They worked, worked worked, all day only to spend the evenings and breaks with more activity— soccer, volleyball, and contests of all sorts. Who can lift the heaviest rocks? Who can throw them further? Wrestling match anyone? It was all very amusing.

Now, this “manliness” thing is not something we made up, it is emphasized in their culture— although I wouldn’t compare it with the machismo of Latin America. in Mongolia there are three skills that are considered the pinnacle of manliness- wrestling, archery, and horse racing. These skills are celebrated in naadam festivals, the large national naadam being held in Ulaan Baatar every summer. Local naadams are held throughout the year and people of all ages can participate. These days, women participate as well– although not in wrestling.

We were fortunate that a local naadam was held at Baga Gazaryn Chuluu (our region) while we were there and we all got to join in the fun.

Gathering for the BGC naadam. (click for a larger view)

It was a whole day affair, starting with a knuckle bone shooting game (sheep or goat bones?). I only saw men playing this game, first the older men but then others got to try, including some guys from our camp.

Our guys are on the left end, Byambaa (shooting), with Dashka and then Galdan to his right.

A little later the horse races began. In this case it was all children riding! We were really lucky because the owners of the tourist ger camp took us in their car along the whole route of the race. We drove behind the horses as they went to the start point and then sped alongside them as they raced back to the finish line. It was an exciting way to watch.

Walking their horses to the start line.

The guy we were cheering for (a relative of the owners of the ger camp).

Rider in the distance.

After that we observed a Buddhist ceremony and ate some fresh yogurt and hard Mongolian cheese and socialized a bit. I took some photos for people and sent them the prints later.

Lovely older ladies looking at the picture Saadia took of them.

Having fun at naaadam.

A traditional blessing, flicking the milk (or yogurt?) to the ground, the wind, and the sky.

Next, was wrestling! This is a sport Mongolia is famous for so I’m glad I got to see it. Two of our guys, Byambaa and Ishee participated which made it even more exciting! The competitions started with little kids and moved up to older and experienced wrestlers. They do an “eagle dance” at the beginning and when they win. Their outfits may look funny to us, but its old traditional gear. The shirt leaves the chest open so that no women can disguise themselves and participate– humiliating the men!

Although our guys didn’t win the top spot, they did well— it was a fantastic day!

Ishee (orange belt).
Byambaa (orange belt).

Enjoying the show.

Next Post—- dinner at Ishee’s house (I mean, ger)!!!

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