First of all, what is a Naadam? Ever heard of Naadam?
Well, Naadam is a traditional festival and also a Mongolian national holiday in Mongolia. It happens between July 11 and July 15. Not only Mongolians but also a lot of tourists come to see and attend the festival. Naadam festival is a perfect opportunity for tourists to experience the culture and the people of the amazing land. Naadam means “Games” in Mongolian. Naadam festival’s activities are focused on wrestling, horse racing, and wrestling. In the past, only men were used to attend these activities in Naadam but in recent times, women started participating in horse racing and archery, yet not in wrestling.
What are the special things about Naadam? What makes Naadam special?
10.Dining in Modern Nomads
If you want to try out some Mongolian dish, Modern Nomads is the best choice. There is also foreign foods. Modern Nomads has numerous chains around the city. It is decorated with Mongolian design. Every night it is usually has a lot of people, especially tourists. One main chain is located near Sukhbaatar Square.
If you miss out Khuushuur in the National Sports Stadium, do not worry the Modern Nomads is the best Mongolian dish chain restaurant. Moreover, you can try or eat other traditional cuisines such as dumplings and buuz.
9.Deeltei Mongol Parade
Deel is traditional costumes of Mongolia. Mongolians usually wear deel on traditional event or festival such as Naadam and Lunar New Year. The parade held a place on Sukhbaatar Square. It usually happens before Naadam and last year’s parade happened on July,10. On this day, you will see variety fashioned and designed silk costumes. Moreover, at this festival, you will see the folk music concert, a fashion parade, and contest as well as a pair of Mongolian Deel.
Deeltei Mongol Parade has become the biggest event that attracts the attention of tourists and traditional costumes of ethnic groups. Also, the parade features a fashion show of Mongolian traditional costumes, circus performance, ankle bone shooting contest and Mongolian handcrafts and carvings.
8.Watching the performance on Sukhbaatar Square
The historical square is located at the heart of Ulanbator city. The large monument which is located in front of the Government Place is for the memorial of Genghis Khan (center), Ogedei Khan (west) and Kublai Khan (east). Also, there is a statue of Damdin Sukhbaatar located at the center of the square. The square is considered as the center of the city. The Sukhbaatar Square is absolutely one of the must-see attractions in the city Ulanbator.
One every July 10, National Flag raising ceremony happens and following that there will be a ceremony of showing a respect to the Statue of Genghis Khan and Wreath laying ceremony to the Statue of Sukhbaatar. On the first day of Naadam (July 11), there will be a ceremony of dispatching the “Yesun Khult Tsagaan Tug” or the “Nine White Banners”. Later at that night, there will be a big firework.
Every Naadam, there is always a performance and cultural events that are related to the festival. For example, the traditional dance or song or even a national play. From the national play (drama), “Uchirtai gurvan tolgoi” is the famous one.
There are a lot of souvenirs shops outside of the National Sports Stadium. The souvenirs are not that expensive and you can buy Mongolian themed jewelry or accessories. Instead of buying, you can see them because it is really attention seeking.
On the 6th floor of the Department Store, you can see or buy more souvenirs which are related to not only past but also modern Mongolian commodities.
For keeping good memory in Mongolia and attending Naadam, visit souvenir shop which you can enjoy seeing and trying Mongolian traditional items, antique, cashmere products, and other souvenirs.
Furthermore, Mongolia is also famous for its cashmere.
After the ceremony in the National Sports Stadium ends, wrestling tournament starts. Wrestling has thousands of years of historical development in Mongolia.
It begins by 512 wrestlers are competing with each other by tournament and this number increases to 1024 by important anniversaries.
There are four main parts in the wrestling costumes that are a four-sided hat, shoulder vest and shorts (zodog and shuudag in Mongolian) and traditional boots for using men only.
Every wrestler has “Zasuul” who sings a song of praise for the winning wrestlers after rounds 3, 5 and 7. There are also titles for the winners of the 7th or 8th stage, the wrestlers earn the title of Zaan (elephant). The winner of the 9th stage, wrestlers earn the title Arslan (lion). And the highest title is Avraga (Titan or Giant).
After wrestling, there will be archery next. As I stated above, archery is one of the main Naadam activities. The archers traditionally wear the national costume “deel” to compete. For archery, both men and women can participate, though men shoot their arrows from 75 meters and women shoot their arrows from 65 meters away.
Have you heard of Ankle bone games? It is called “Shagai” in Mongolia. It is also one of the popular activities of Naadam alongside archery, horse racing, and wrestling.
In shagai dice, the shagai lands on one of the four sides which are goat, camel, sheep or horse.
There are a lot of anklebone games such as horse race, twelve years, the four shagai, four animals, cat’s game and birthing camels. My favorite is the horse racing and it is a very common ankle bone game which is played between 2 or more people. Each people flicks one piece and if it lands horse then you will move your shagai to the race course.
The ankle bone “shagai” is the original dice and also used for fortunetelling. In fortunetelling, if you toss four shagai and if it lands on each goat, horse, camel, and sheep, are considered lucky. Also by another fortunetelling, the four shagai, if it lands on horse or sheep, are considered lucky and if it lands on goat or camel, are considered unlucky.
Along with Khuushuur, there is a traditional drink called “Airag”. It is a drink that is made of horse milk. Airag is widely known throughout Central Asia. Airag is a fermented dairy product made from mare’s milk. Mare milk is rich in whey protein, fatty acids and vitamin C. Outside of the Sports Stadium, there is Airag alongside with Khuushuur. People drink not only Airag in Naadam but also drink in their daily life if they like to.
In Lunar New Year, Mongolians drink “Airag” and eat Buuz.
3.Watching Horse Racing in Hui doloon hudag
Hui doloon hudag is quite far away from the city, Ulaanbaatar. Naadam takes about four days so that in 1 day at the National Sports Stadium and another day spent in Hui Doloon Hudag. In Hui Doloon Hudag, people go there to watch horse racing. Horse racing usually happens in the morning so that most of the people go there around 6 a.m. The length of each race is determined by age class. For example, if the horse is older, the length that they are going to race is much longer than the young horses. Young horses usually race minimum 10 miles but on the other hand older horses race up to 17 miles. The race starts by jockeys sing a song which is called “Gingo”. Jockeys are usually children between 5 to 13 years old.
Moreover, you can eat Khuushuur and drink Airag in there. Also, there are other activities happen in Hui Doloon Hudag such as other performance and cultural events that are related to the Festival.
2. Eating Khuushuur
Naadam without Khuushuur is impossible. Khuushuur is the traditional cuisine of Naadam. There are a lot of places which are making Khuushuur outside of the Sports Stadium so that it is not hard for you to find one and try it out.
Khuushuur is very popular in Mongolia and even though it is not Naadam, you can order or eat it in any kind of local restaurants in Ulaanbaatar. Khuushuur is a type of dumpling that is similar to Russian. It is made with meat which is ground up beef that is mixed with onions. Furthermore, it is similar to another Mongolian cuisine “Buuz” and also they have the same recipe and ways to do them. The main ingredients for Khuushuur and Buuz are meat, dough, salt, and onions.
1.Watching the festival in the National Sports Stadium
Naadam is held in the capital city of Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar. Mongolia is a landlocked country between Russia and China. Mongolia is also well-known not only for its nomadic culture and Gobi desert but also for its rich history and astonishing nature. The festival is also called “the three games of the game” which are activities that are held in Naadam. The three activities are archery, wrestling and horse racing. Archery and wrestling happen in the National Sports Stadium but the horse racing is held at “Hui doloon hudag”. The Naadam has been celebrated for centuries. Since from the time that Genghis Khan was living. Lately, Naadam has been celebrated in the National Sports Stadium for the last decades. The festival registered with the Intangible Heritage Fund of UNESCO.
The Naadam Festival opens by Genghis Khan’s nine-horse tails which are representing the nine tribes of Mongols. After that, there are parades of cavalry, athletes, dancers, and singers. The stadium is full-filled with a lot of people and tourists. After the parade, there will be wrestling and archery.
The history of Naadam started from the Genghis Khan, in that time Naadam used to be a competition between warriors based on their strength and flexibility that revealed in their wrestling, archery skills and their patience and endurability in their horse racing skills during national competitions. Resulting on the three activities that are archery, horse racing, and wrestling, the festival got its name “Naadam”. From the late 17th century to the early 20th century (during the Qing Dynasty), under the ruling of them, Manchu leaders have stated that no monks are allowed to participate in any activities of Naadam. Manchu leaders who are the leaders of the Qing dynasty, they slowly decreased the population of Mongolia and tried to lower their power by forbidding Naadam. However, Mongolians managed to save their traditions and cultures by celebrating Naadam events and activities including archery, wrestling, and horse racing with a small number of people. After the victory of the People’s Revolution and the independence of Mongolia in the 1920s, Mongolians started celebrating Naadam as a national celebration.