Mongolia is a beautiful nation located between China and Russia. The country is rich in history, culture, and nature. It was founded by Genghis Khan, one of the most well-known and feared conquerors in history. Today, Mongolia is the 18th largest country in the world but is also the least densely populated country in the world; it’s estimated to have only 2 people per square kilometer. The kind-hearted locals and the unique traditions make Mongolia a very interesting destination for visitors. Ready to learn more? Read on for 10 fascinating facts about Mongolia.
1. Mongolia has an annual camel festival
Mongolia is home to the Bactrian camel, an interesting mammal known for the two large humps protruding from its back. Every year in March, Mongolia holds the two-day Thousand Camel Festival in the Gobi desert to celebrate the magnificent animal with races, performances, and a parade. Mongolians from all over the country dress up their best camels for the camel beauty pageant, an interesting fact about Mongolia. Visitors of the festival can try camel milk or buy goods made from camel wool. Owners of the majestic animal can also participate in sports such as camel polo or the famous camel race.
2. Mongolians add salt to their milk tea
Suutei tsai is a popular drink in Mongolia made of tea leaves steeped in water and milk mixed with some salt. Locals drink the salted milk tea at any time of the day, usually having it with meals. Recipes vary from household to household with some families using green tea or black tea, using more salt or less salt, or even adding butter or fried millet. Living in a landlocked country, many Mongolians consider water sacred and don’t drink it straight. This is believed to be the reason why suutei tsai became a staple beverage.
3. They have a giant statue of Genghis Khan
Genghis Khan is an extremely important figure in Mongolian history. So much so that the country has a 131-foot statue of the famous conqueror on horseback. An interesting fact about Mongolia is that this monument is not only the biggest statue of Genghis Khan but also the largest horse statue in the world.
4. A large percentage of the population is nomadic
A nomad is a person that doesn’t have a permanent home. They instead choose to regularly travel to new destinations, often to find fresh pastures for their animals to graze in. As much as 40% of the Mongolian population are nomads. They live in large portable tents called ger and wander the country on horseback. As the Mongolian culture becomes more modernized, the nomads are beginning to adopt new techniques such as herding livestock using motorbikes or using solar panels to power their mobile phones and televisions.
5. It’s common to say “hold the dog!” before entering a house
Many Mongolian families have large guard dogs meant to protect the people and their livestock. The breed most commonly used in the country is the Mongolian Bankhar, a close relative of the big Tibetan Mastiff. When you visit a Mongolian family, it’s customary to shout “nokhoi khor!” or “hold the dog!” for a member of the family to bring you inside. This is often used even when there is no dog in the house.
6. It has the coldest capital city in the world
Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia is the country’s largest city and also serves as its capital. The city experiences an annual average temperature of -1.3°C and can go as low as -40°C during the coldest months. It can get so cold in parts of Mongolia that the people have created a word, zud, to describe a winter weather condition so severe that it causes much of their livestock to pass away.
7. Milk is considered sacred
There are a variety of sources of milk in Mongolia. It can be taken from cows, camels, yaks, sheep, or even horses. The drink holds much significance in the culture, often being used for rituals as an offering, a blessing, or a form of protection, an interesting fact about Mongolia. It’s used in many recipes in Mongolian cuisine and is a central ingredient in popular local drinks such as salted milk tea and fermented mare’s milk. Mongolians even have a traditional milk spoon that isn’t used for eating; it’s used for tossing milk during ceremonies.
8. There are more horses in the country than there are people
Horses are used for sports, hunting, traveling, herding, and milk. The animal is a source of pride for the Mongolian people and, as a result, many Mongolians own one or more of the majestic creatures. The most recent statistics found that there are 3.26 million people in Mongolia and around 3.94 million horses, showing that horses outnumber humans by a wide margin, a fun Mongolia fact. The country is also home to the largest population of Przewalski’s horse, a rare breed considered to be the only wild horse in the world.
9. Tuvan throat singing from Mongolia is a method of singing in two tones at once
Overtone singing is a practice wherein one performer sings two or more pitches at once. It is a very difficult skill to master and produces a very interesting, otherworldly sound. The people of Tuva in Mongolia practice overtone throat singing as a part of their culture, often traveling to rivers and mountainsides looking for the perfect environment for throat singing.
10. The hat is an important part of Mongolian traditional clothing
In Mongolian tradition, the hat is more than a piece of stylish seasonal apparel; it serves as a representation of the wearer’s gender, social status, and age. The hat is a meaningful part of the Mongolian culture and it’s considered rude to borrow or try on someone else’s hat, an interesting fact about Mongolia.
Mongolia is a unique and fascinating country. The people deeply value their livestock and have much respect for animals and the resources they produce. Mongolia’s culture and traditions center on appreciating what the earth provides. It’s a truly remarkable way of life that many of us can learn from.
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