Naadaam Festival

Mongolia.  The three-day national holiday of Naadaam is celebrated all over the country. It is a time for proving one’s skill. Competitions in archery, horseback riding, wrestling and bone throwing are mainstay events.

In the capital, these are huge events with a carnival atmosphere. In the more rural areas, the competitions are on a smaller scale. Either way, people have generally traveled far to participate. Both have their own charm. You are apt to encounter more mare’s milk in the rural areas. But the opening ceremonies in the capital sent chills down my spine at dusk when dozens of traditionally uniformed horseman holding raised torches charged into the main square.

These are some photos from Naadaam as celebrated in the capital, Ulaanbaatar.

Naadaam – traditional orchestra

Naadaam – bone throwing competition

The two with their backs facing us are throwing bones aiming for the center at the backboard of the chest.  A long table of men were throat singing during this competition (a loud, low, gurgling chant type of song). A nearby news camera was recording an interview with a sports announcer who was dressed in a gold embroidered, long robe. 

Naadaam – Women’s archery competition

At the far end were what looked like tin can arrangements and groups of judges determined the specificity of the marksmanship. The men competed here too but stood about ten feet further back. I loved the clothing at the archery competitions. Both male and female contestants wore fancy traditional garb.

Naadaam – wrestling competition

The man wearing the long blue robe (the robe is called a deel) is a referee. Each set of wrestlers had only three minutes to throw the other to the ground so it was a fast moving competition.  Fast except for the final bout between the top two in the evening hours, that had no time limit. I was losing interest well before it was over.

Naadaam – horse racing

These riders were aged 7 to 9. So you can imagine how the crowds were reacting. I mostly remember the traffic en route to this event. Imagine the gridlock of hundreds of vehicles driving through fields. Traveling there made a big impression.

Kubla Khan is a popular figure since the 1990s demise of communist rule.

TATTOO—Journeys on My Mind by Tina Marie L. Lamb is available at Amazonand BarnesandNoble and iBooks and Audible,

Buy it. Read it. Let me know what you think. –TMLL


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