Posted by Selena Travel / 09 26, 2023
This fantastic festival celebrating the honored Golden Eagles is also a celebration of Kazakh traditional heritage. Kazakhs are a minority group, living in Western Mongolia, and they make up about 5% of the country`s population. They are distinctly different from the majority group in Mongolia, the Khalkha, as Kazakhs speak their own language and worship Islam while the rest of country is Buddhist.
In order to maintain the event as a festival for the Kazakhs themselves and keep its authenticity, the attendance is usually limited for tourists. The highlight of this fantastic trip is interaction with Kazakhs and living with them for a couple of days to take part in the eagle training and get to know about the unique Kazakh culture. Every year, 20 – 30 Kazakh trainers participate in the event with their specially trained Golden Eagles. Spectacular events held during the festival include competitions based on speed, agility, and accuracy of these magnificent Golden Eagles and some great Kazakh traditional games such as Kokbar, archery and traditional horse racing etc are also organized on the festival days. Here are the top 5 reasons to see Golden Eagle Festival while traveling to Mongolia.
1. Unique hunting culture by Golden Eagle
There is no English word for the hunting with eagles such as 'eagler'. Today professional Kazakh hunters in Mongolia call the hunting with eagle berkutchy. A berkutchy is a life's profession, and is often a hereditary one. The relationship between the bird and the master is an intimate and intense bonding. While training a young eagle, the berkutchy must sacrifice his/her sleep for a long period. For weeks, the growing bird is rendered sightless under its hood until its dependence on its master become complete. Such intimacy must turn into a lifelong trust with the eagle - twenty years or more. And it is said that as the man trains the eagle, so does the eagle his man. Female eagles are preferred since they are believed to be more aggressive and weigh as much as fifteen pounds (nearly one-third more than the males).
2. Manly races
The three manly races, namely archery, horse race and wrestling, are usually held during Naadam festival all over Mongolia. Mongolian Naadam Festival is the biggest and most joyful celebration for testing courage, strength, dexterity, and marksmanship of the nomads. The festival was first celebrated during the era of Hunnu empire and was originally organized as a competition to test the skills of Mongol Warriors of different tribes. Although Naadams are held in summer, during the 2 days of Golden Eagle Festival, visitors have a unique chance to experience horse race, camel race and Uriankhai archery.
3. Supporting the local community
Kazakhs are renowned for their unique and extraordinary skill in using Golden Eagles to hunt small prey. Unfortunately, like many traditional practices elsewhere in the world, hunting with eagles is on the verge of extinction. The Golden Eagle Festival was initiated in order to help reviving this remarkable tradition and promote it among the younger generations. By doing so, the organizers are hoping to balance the preservation of Mongolia’s past traditions and conservation of nature with ever-growing population and globalization.
4. Meeting with Kazakh people
Undoubtedly, a major highlight of this tour is the interaction with local Kazakhs and learning about their unique culture. Approximately 90% of the population in Bayan-Olgii province is Kazakh and although their pastoral-nomadic lifestyle is similar to that of Khalkhas,' these Kazakh-speaking nomads are predominantly Muslim. Kazakh women are renowned for their skills in embroidery and appliqué-hand-crafted felt carpets line the floor of their gers and delicately embroidered tapestries adorn the walls in a dazzling mosaic of colours.
5. Altai Tavan Bogd National park
Altai Tavan Bogd National park is a majestic natural reserve and is famous for its 5 highest peaks in Mongolia and largest Potanin glacier, elevated over 3000 m above the sea level. Many travelers who has traveled to Western Mongolia claim that this park is the most beautiful national park in the country. There are several historically important sites besides its natural wonders including ancient rock paintings – recently registered in UNESCO’s World Heritage Site list, mysterious stone men and burial mounds that dates back to bronze and stone ages.
If you are considering to book a Mongolian tour, Golden eagle festival and Bayan-Olgii province will be a once in a lifetime opportunity!
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