For the first-time traveler to Mongolia, spending a couple days in the capital of Ulaanbaatar prior to visiting the Gobi allows you to first appreciate the history of Mongolia through visiting its rich cultural centers and museums. Within a brief drive of the capital there are also opportunities to get a glimpse of the broader natural beauty of the country.
The temperature in the Gobi in the south of Mongolia reaches −40 °F in the winter, and as high as 113 °F in the summer, making this one of the most forbidding lands in the world. Yet Bactrian camels have thrived here for millennia, supplying the nomadic herders with valuable wool for textiles, milk for sustenance, and transportation throughout the region.
The ger (pronounced ‘gaire’) presents a lovely window into the history and culture of Mongolia’s nomadic people. Ger is the Mongolian name for the portable, round tent dwelling used by distinct nomadic groups in the steppes of Central Asia. Also called a yurt (from the Turkic lnaguages), ger are traditionally constructed of a supported crown (roof ring), roof poles, wood latticework walls, and covered with felt—the dome skylight is open, with a woodstove chimney, and the door faces south. A marvel of ingenuity, the ger heartily withstands harsh winter winds, and radiates warmth within its insulation. The following facts about the ger are yet more intriguing.
For Mongolians, the concept of “environmental protection” is not merely a name for protecting nature from external influences, nor is it a name for seeking ways to rehabilitate nature after it has deteriorated. Instead it is the values of taking the necessary measures to adapt and protect nature wisely to prevent that potential degradation. It is a culture of respecting the earth, treating it with humanity, loving its animals and plants, and preserving its resources with high ecological ethics.
The world really is the best classroom. Bringing children on your family vacations allows them to grow in unexpected leaps and bounds. Becoming engaged one-on-one with Mongolia’s unique people, landscape, and traditions allows kids to experience history in the flesh, geography beneath their boots, and culture everywhere they look.
Gobi: Changing the Perceptions of the Desert
It’s not often you hear the word Gobi without the word desert attached: the image of a barren, lifeless place of endless billowing sand dunes is firmly affixed to the term desert in the mind of the general public. Deserts, however, can be varied in landscape, and frequently contain many ecologically diverse pockets.