Written by N.Suvdaa
THIS was something different for tourists. The 60 or so people from various countries who were there at Aygiin Am in Bayandelger soum, Tuv aimag for the annualNomads' Day Festival on September 17 and 18, would wholeheartedly agree. The organizer of the two- day event was Selena Travel Company and this was the third year that it was being held.
The first day saw several non-competitive events where nomadic people presented their traditional culture and music. It was fitting that the day was very windy as the tourists got to realize how harsh the weather conditions usually are for nomadic herders.
An extraordinary range of skills was on display. Riders caught roaming horses with lassos, picked up things while riding on a galloping horse, showed how a horse is broken in, described the different ways to count sheep, showed how camel wool is made into strands. It was shown how hard existence could be on a daily basis. Children played a game in which they had to guess how many anklebones someone had in their hands. The prize for the winning team was an invitation to the "Chinggis Khaan's meal" on the last day of the event. That final day also saw a riding contest for couples. A mini Naadam was organized and Mongolian cuisine was offered. On the first day tourists took part in setting up a ger, and learnt the proper way to greet someone with Mongolian dairy products. There were contests for them to show the skills they had learnt, such as putting up part of a ger wall, picking cowpats from the steppe, and saddling a horse. A team with Swiss tourists was the best of the six teams who joined in this.
This annual festival gives a chance to those who come to Mongolia too late for the annual Naadam to see what they missed. They also get to see nomadic life from close quarters. According to an organizer they have to cater to two types of tourists. Usually those from the USA and Europe want to taste the adventures that mark nomadic life, while Asian tourists generally want to relax and demand comfort.
Loren and Lisa Skyhorse, saddle makers from Colorado, USA planned to spend a month in Mongolia. Lisa said, "We loved Mongolian clothes, they are so comfortable, beautiful and we can put things in the Ovor, which is similar to a pocket." She was carrying stickers and candies for the kids.
They have enjoyed themselves so much that they were already planning to return next year.
What had they liked most in Mongolia? Loren thought for a while, and said, "In America the culture of ownership prevails. This is different here. Everyone shares the land and shares hospitality, food, and animals. Sharing is such a wonderful thing and in America we don't have this."