General Information

About Mongolia

The Republic of Mongolia is a country of Asia, landlocked between Russia to the north and China to the south. Ulaanbaatar is main city and capital, nearly 30% of the 3 million people are nomadic or semi-nomadic. Currency is Tugrug.  
The territory of Mongolia is vast, but has very little arable land; the country is covered with steppes, mountain areas in north and west and the Gobi desert in the south area.
The main religion is Buddhism and the majority of the citizens (80%) are Khalkh, there are minorities who are mainly Kazakh to the west. Nearly a third of residents live in the capital Ulan Bator. Mongolia has the lowest population density in the world.

 

Geography

With an area of 1 565 500 km ², Mongolia is a vast country, under populated, embedded between two states of Russia and China. It is economically weakened by the absence of access to the sea.  Most of the country is steppe of Khangai area. The Gobi Desert covers part of the south, while in the north and west, are mountainous regions with abundant forests. The highest peak of the country is Khuiten Orgil at 4374 m. 
The country has an average of 257 days without a cloud and is usually located in the heart of a high pressure system. The extreme south is occupied by the Gobi, some regions receive no rainfall for years. The western part of Mongolia is located in an area of seismic activity. Broadly, the north, near the Russian border, is a region of mountain and taiga. The steppes of the center are large grassy plateaus with few forests. To the south and east, at the borders with China, lies the Gobi desert, a desert of rocks characterized by extreme temperatures in winter and summer. 

 

Climate

The Mongolian climate is purely continental.  It is very cold in winter and hot in the summer. The thermal amplitude is very important in Ulan Bator, the maximum is 40 degrees in the summer and the minimum down sometimes below -40 degrees in the winter. The average temperature in January is -26 degrees and in July is 28 degrees, July is the hottest month. Temperatures vary a lot during the year, but also in the same day. In general, the weather is very dry throughout the year and the winds are violent. We count over 255 days of sunshine in one year. The South and the Gobi desert are also subject to intense cold and ice. Spring is short and is sometimes marked by wind storms (they can reach peaks of 15 to 25 m / second) and snowfalls. The summer is usually warm and that is in this season that rainfalls are the most important. However, they remain scarce since their maximum volume is 500 mm per year. They are irregularly distributed over the territory and are much denser in the north than in the South. They last from June to late August; the rest of the year is rather characterized as dry. The spring officially begins in February but is only effective in April and the winter starts in fact from the month of October. 

 

Population

The majority of the population belongs to the Khalkha. Among the ethnic groups inhabiting Mongolia, there are also Bayad, Buryat, Dorvod, Kazakh, Uriankhai, Uzemtchin. The rate of population growth is estimated at 1.54% (2000 census). Nearly 2 / 3 of the population are aged under 30 and 36% are under 14 years.  
Approximately 50% of Mongolians are Buddhists, 6% are Christians, 40% are shamanism, and 4% are Muslims or others.  
The population is increasingly urbanized, with nearly half living in the capital and provincial centers. The semi-nomadic life still predominates in the countryside, where families live in villages during the harsh winter and in yurts during summer. Today 3 million people are registered in Mongolia with 67.4% of young people under 30. Life expectancy is 65 years. The population density is 1.4 km ² / inhabitant.  Administratively, Mongolia is divided into 21 aimags (regions). The broader region is Umnugobi aimag and the most populated region is Khovsgol aimag. 

 

Languages

The official language is Mongolian. The number of speakers across all its dialects may be 5.7 million, including the vast majority of the residents of Mongolia. Each group has its Mongolian dialect. During several centuries of intense contact between the groups or, on the contrary, of insulation, lexical peculiarities have emerged locally. Mutual understanding persists in spite of regional particularities. Today, at the end of a long effort, Mongolian language of the northern group includes the language spoken by the southern group. Communication with the dialects “oirat”, profoundly changed by contacts with former Turks, is more difficult. In addition to the 2.5 million people in Mongolia, there are over 2 million speakers of various Mongolian dialects in China, 400 000 speakers of Buryat and around 100 000 speakers of Kalmyk in Russia. The major obstacle to understanding between Mongolian from different countries lies in the gradual abandonment of the dialects of their group to the Russian or Chinese, outside Mongolia. 

 

Economy

The Mongolian economy depends a lot on the international markets. Its main resources are its goats’ wool for cashmere production and mineral wealth of its subsoil (various metals including gold, coal, etc). The natural resources of Mongolia are formed by minerals (copper, molybdenum, fluorine, tungsten) and precious and semi-precious stones including gold. There are also coal and oil to a lesser extent, but that is not exploited by lack of infrastructure. All these products represent, in value, two-thirds of Mongolian exports. 
About half of the population lives in yurts. One third of Mongolians are pure nomads, they live on rearing of horse, sheep, goats and yaks. Mongolia is an exporter of animal products: meat, wool and animal hair, including cashmere (1st world producer; 2nd national resource after copper). Until the 1970s, before the commissioning of mines such as the one of Erdenet, animal husbandry and industries related to them were by far the first resource of the country. Mongolian currency is Tugrug 

 

Transportation

There is 43,700 km of roads in Mongolia with only 1300 km of paved road. Rail and airplanes are the two other means of transport.  
Aviation: Only the Mongolian Company MIAT provides non-stop flight Ulaanbaatar-Berlin. Other companies offer a stopover in Moscow or Beijing. The Russian company Aeroflot offers a flight Moscow-Ulaanbaatar. The airport of Ulaanbaatar “ChinghisKhan” at Buyant-Ukhaa is located 18km from the center of Ulaanbaatar. The MIAT provides all regular flights from and to all the capitals of aimags.  
Railway: The Trans-Siberian Railway (1815), which connects Russia to China, is very important. From Moscow, the train takes the Transsiberian railway to Ulan-Ude, then the Transmongolien railway towards Beijing, and stopped at Ulaanbaatar. 
Public transport network of buses and taxis cover all aimag capitals. 

 

Art and Culture

The Mongolian art is the result of a rich cultural heritage: Hunnu, Juan-Juan, Kirghizde Ienissei, Turkic and Uighur, but it is also enriched by a synthesis of influences from India and Tibet, from which it has created its own style.  
The oldest art of Mongolia is the art of the steppes in which animal are very present, it spreads from the Altai to China, passing through Lake Baikal. Nearly 80% of deer stones of the Bronze Age are on the Mongolian soil, we count about 500 pieces.  
The Mongolian folk art does not develop painting as much as some other Central Asian peoples do. The secular and figurative paintings are not common. Moreover, farmers do not develop rich ornamentation of gher compared to the different embroidery made by the Kazakhs. The Mongolian folk art seems to crystallize in the master of the speech: the song and verse.

 

Traditional Song

Traditional music uses the pentatonic scale and has two forms: the first is rhythmic, with a regular structure; the second is free and varies according to the mood and the singer. There are various kind of songs:
Long song which is the oldest. It takes its source in the ancient poetry and has an epic tone. Always performed in solo, this song is characterized by a large melodic breathing and an extensive record which requires a powerful blast of the singer, since he is vocalizing as long as possible without regaining his breath, modulating endlessly on vowels.  
Diaphone song is the most spectacular and probably the most archaic type of song.
The Khuumii is a vocal technique that allows one person to produce simultaneously two or even three separate vocal lines. On the one hand, a continuous drone, from the air leaving the throat, and, on the other hand, a series of Harmonic produced with the tongue that rolls on the palate, doses the breath and issues sounds similar to the flute.  
Epic song is the Mongolians have inherited ancient and rich epic traditions. Their most remarkable epics are named Geseriade and Jangariade (epic of Geser and Jangar). 
Magtaal is a type of song that still holds an important place in the life of the Mongolians today. It is a poetic hymn of praise, an epic hymn that has its roots in the Mongolian shamanic poetry. Dedicated to sacred mountains, to a powerful wrestler-from whom it praises the strength and skill or to a good horse- from which it praises the velocity, it punctuates all important events in the life of nomads, whether in a sung or versified form.  

 

Traditional Costume

The traditional costume is called "Deel". Due to the harsh climate, we wear the "Deel" every time; this is a long dress with long sleeves, cut in one piece. The "Deel" is closed on the front, buttoned on the right side and tightens at the waist by a wide belt which color contrasts with the "Deel". According to the season, the “Deel” can be made in silk, linen wool, lined with camel or lamb fur. In winter, we wear the skin of sheep, in the summer the “terleg”, another name for “Deel ".  
In spring and autumn, we wear a “Deel” made in cotton, leather, skin or felt. The Mongolians have been making their own clothes for years. Great significance is attributed to the colors and symbols of the national costume. The elderly wear more discrete colors. Bright colors in clothing and trimmings are reserved to young people. Married people and girls differ from each other by the "Deel". Wearing a hat is a sign of dignity for men, and a solid pair of boots is worn to ride all day long. In Mongolia, there are 400 different kinds of “Deels”, twenty models of boots, dozens of belts. As Mongolia is inhabited by different ethnic groups, Khalkha, Buryats, Bayad, Durvuds, Kazakhs, one discovers a great diversity of forms, shapes, colors and adornments in the national costumes. The national dress of the Mongolians has kept its originality and its rich traditions.

 

Customs and Beliefs

Inside the ger (yurt): Entering the yurt, men sit on the left side and women on the right side. Basically, near the altar is the place of the chief of the house and guests. A small silk bag filled with seeds is suspended under the Toono (crown circle), as a sign of good luck, sometimes even a few tufts of yak hair holds the strand of felt. Avoid hitting the bottom of the door frame, resting against the posts supporting the toono, sitting back turned to the altar or whistling in the yurt. Reciting prayers during the construction of a yurt calls good spirits.  
Fire: Throwing rubbish in the fire would be an insult to the spirit of the yurt, a bin is provided on the outside. Avoid pointing the blade of a knife into the fire. Giving something on top of the stove is prohibited.  
Food & Drink: When you are given the aïrag, you must drink a little, and then give the bowl back to the person who has served you. He will fill it again and offer it to another person. There are always three rounds of vodka and arkhi. The bowl of tea and the bowl of noodles with meat are individual, while the glass of vodka and aïrag are collective. The meat is cut with both hands, but the sharpness of the knife always turned towards you. 

 

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