White round tents dotting the Mongolian grasslands, few things are evocative of the Mongolian nomad lifestyle like the typical hut of the Mongols. But what exactly is a Mongolian Ger? Let us at YPT take you on a trip inside a Mongolian Ger.
What is a Ger
A Mongolian Ger (also called a Yurt outside Mongolia) is a round hut that can quickly be assembled and disassembled to be carried according to the needs of nomads. A Ger is generally made-up of a few wooden columns which are then covered by a kind of tarp made with felt. A round opening is made in the middle of the roof of the Ger so that a fire can be lit in the middle of the hut, with the smoke leaving from this aperture. While there is now Gers made of plastic, traditional Gers were made of materials that the Mongols could scavenge in nature, using wood, animal bones and horns, as well as pelts and felts. All of its structure is tied with both animal hides and ropes.
Generally, gers only have one door and that door is placed facing the south side. A Ger does not have inner walls, so the whole family is staying together without any division or need for privacy. As the Ger has a single room, it acts as a living room, a bedroom, a kitchen, and a dining room altogether!
History of the Ger
It is hard to know when the Mongolian Ger was invented, as they have been around for so long! Indeed, Gers and Yurts have been around Central Asia for at least 3000 years, which makes it even more so formidable when you visit one, knowing that they haven’t changed much in all those years.
While Mongolian Gers have not changed much throughout the years, some things about them have changed. Most notably, the way they are transported. Back in the days, Gers would be disassembled to be carried by horses to the next location where the nomads would bring their cattle for grazing. Nowadays, Gers are packed to be put in the back of the family’s pickup truck.
Another massive change to Gers is the very recent introduction of solar panels. With the new solar panel technology, Mongol families now can have small electric furniture inside their homes, as Gers are definitely off any kind of regular electricity grid.
Nowadays, you’ll find Ger all around Central Asia, thanks to the Mongol invasions, which have spread this go-to accommodation on the go around the world. It was also spread out to Russia, for the same reason, where it has been renamed a yurt. It was adopted by many nomadic cultures which have taken it as their own and is now a typical staple of tourist adventures.
Customs involving Gers
When entering a Ger, it is considered good manners for men to step left and women to step right. When moving around the Ger, it is important to walk through it clockwise. That is due to the Buddhist heritage of the Mongols (the same happens when Buddhist go around temples)
You should leave your hat on when entering a Ger.
You should never throw rubbish in a fire in Mongolia, as fire is sacred. This, of course, includes throwing trash in the hearth in the middle of the Ger!
When going around Mongolia, you are sure to spot many Gers and you are very likely to be invited in by nomads. They are most likely to offer you tea as well as simple snacks when you get in. You should always accept things that are offered to you. For example, if you are not hungry, you should still nibble on whatever food is given to you, not doing so would be considered very rude. Likewise, if you are offered food in a Ger, you should remove your gloves and coat to dine. Not doing so would send your host the message that they are doing a poor job hosting you, as they are not providing sufficient heat for you to be comfortable.
If you are walking near a Ger and have not been noticed or invited in yet, make sure to make your presence known by greeting the people around the Ger. Some people in Mongolia keep guard dogs and going up to a Ger without being invited could lead you into trouble!
Hang out in Ger with Mongol nomads as part of our yearly tour of Mongolia!