If you only have a day to spare, i suggest you spend it traveling down 80 kilometers to the Terelj National Park to engage in cultural immersion visiting rock formations and spending time with a nomadic family. BUT if you only have half a day, your best bet is to watch a Mini Naadam in Chinggis Khaan Kuree Ger camp.
The Mongolian Naadam Festival has its own brand of pageantry as well as intense competitions. Boasting of the “3 sports of men”, Mongolia has succumbed to girl power and allowed women to also compete in Archery and Horse Racing but NOT IN WRESTLING. Our guide explained however that a female once outwrestled a man, prompting the “change in uniform” of the wrestlers. The more revealing uniform has since deterred women from competing. Hmmmmmm. Not very good sports, ehh?
In ancient times, Naadam — which means games — was held during weddings. In time, the festival included impressive parades of mounted cavalry with the most macho men warming up in an “eagle dance” before a wrestling match. As touristy as it gets, the mini Naadam Fest in Chinggis Kuree Ger Camp was a cultural performance where men wrestlers display their physique on a chilly afternoon, children and young teens on their saddles — often without a helmet — racing across the grassy plains, and men and women shooting arrows at impossible targets.
In this Naadam, we were also herded into a couple of gers. Not the kind where real nomadic families live, but “fancy gers” with animal furs spread over the tent to keep you warm, “thrones” ornately designed to make you feel like royalty, and some of the best performers with a knack for freaking you out. I mean that as a COMPLIMENT!
The operatic renditions of Mongolian classics left me wondering how these Mongolians can sound like Russians when they speak, but sound so like their Chinese neighbors when they sing. Amazing. But it was my first to hear “throat singing”. No, yodel is different. Throat singing is in a class all its own. Listen to this clip. I’m sure I’d never explain it enough.
So soon after the “throat singing” we were treated to another cultural performance. It took awhile to “recover” from this last one. This lady contortionist nearly freaked me out. How in heaven’s name does she do that? After her performance, I noticed that she walked on tiptoes, like her feet bones won’t let her press her soles on the ground. I wonder if that hurts?
What an afternoon! Before gunpowder was invented, all battles were won by sheer guts, innate intellect, physical skills and muscle power. My idea of a Mongolian warrior is that of a Gengis Khan lookalike aiming with his arrow while riding a horse at full speed. Fierce!