We’ve had some requests for more details about the Mongolian gers (their homes) and we’re happy to provide! You just ask and we’ll always do our best to make blog entries on things you might find interesting.
TELL ME A BIT ABOUT THE GER
Inside, gers are one big room that maybe 10 people live in. Sometimes you’ll find them in the same compound with a house (permanent) which gets left vacant when the ger is moved to a new location – they move with the seasons to keep the animals grazing. The basic structure is made of a lattice of wood for the round walls, wood riser sticks for the roof and a round center where the ‘chimney’ would be. Outside, everything is covered with big sheets of handmade felt (one layer in the summer, a 2nd layer added if it’s cold) which are tied in place. Much more about that below.
The interior walls are covered with handmade tapestries (and the occasional mass produced one) and the floors have hand-sewn felt rugs that you can sit or sleep on. The door is on one side and directly opposite of it sits the most senior person in the family. It’s a seat of honor. Whenever we trekkers were invited in, we were given that seat of honor. There is also sometimes a small bed or two with a curtain in front of it for the older folks or the parents…or the occasional newlyweds!
A dung-fired cooking stove is set up in the center of the tent with it’s heat exhaust pipe going up through a hole in the roof. It heats the ger up nicely when it’s running and they do all their meals on it, as well as cooking bread, doughs, heating yak tea, etc. Cozy!
OH! THE TEXTILES!!
We never got over how cool all the textiles were. They stay with families for generations and the bottom is always left unfinished so the next generation can add on to it.
LET’S BUILD A GER TODAY.
The ger is packed up and moved about every three months so that animals have fresh pastures from which to eat (think teepees of Native Americans). We moved our base camp ger about 10 yards because it had become structurally unsound…probably from all of us leaning against the walls. I think it took an hour, but when it’s not a bunch of amateurs helping, it can be done in half that time.
Video of putting the top canvas over the ger.
Move the stove in + all the beds and textiles and you’re good to go for another three months!
EAT, DRINK, AND BE MERRY.
DOGS & CATS
Most gers have a dog outside, often times tied to a stake. The dog’s job is to protect the herd and alert the family to wild animals that might hurt the yaks or sheep. Dogs are not really pets in Mongolia. In fact, before entering a ger you say, in Mongolian of course, something along the lines of “call off the dogs”.
Each ger had a cat to take care of the mice and whatever other critters. They were sometimes tied up, which we didn’t completely understand. Unlike the dogs, the cats were allowed inside the ger and kids played with the cat. They also didn’t seem to catch all the mice as we definitely saw one or two! Our head cook, Saraa, HATED the cats. She had some serious cat phobia, so the boys would occasionally run into the ger, quite literally throw a cat at her, she’d scream and the cat would run away. Ahh, boys….the same around the world.
ANSWERING A FEW OTHER QUESTIONS
- The gers are really mobile homes and used that way. As there are a few tourists coming to visit (i.e. – our tour!), they are starting to sew some items with the hopes of selling them, but the gers in general aren’t shops, just homes. That being said, a few of us bought wonderful carpets or other textiles. They’re also happy to sell other items if we asked! Got ourselves a pair of wonderful, very old hand-made stirrups for the studio, for example.
- There are two types of gers: Mongolian and Khazak. We only visited Khazak gers, so that’s what we can really talk about, but we were told that traditional Mongolians gers are similar, but smaller and shorter.
We hope this gave you a bit more of an insight into the gers and how they relate to Khazak-Mongolian life. Please let us know what else you’d like to see!