Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Nadam Festival

Here in Mongolia we have just celebrated the Nadam Holiday. Nadam originated back to Ghengis Khan’s day to celebrate the harvest but grew to include wrestling, horse racing, and archery. Certain foods are associated with different holidays and Nadam is no exception. Hoshur is the preferred food at Nadam. Hoshur is a breaded dough with meat in the middle and deep fried. Usually hoshur is as big as your hand and tastes very savory. We joined in the festivities celebrating the opening ceremonies at the Stadium in Ulaanbaatar with 20,000 other people. The pageantry, the colors, the traditional Deel clothing, all made for spectacular sights for these foreigners! Over 4000 people participated in the event including 999 Morin Hurh musical players (the traditional horse head instrument which is a cross between a cello and a violin), 1000 Soldiers from different eras of history, children dressed in colorful clothing, dancers, and many others dressed in period costume. It was spectacular. Take a look at a few pictures below.

There were 999 Morin Hurh instruments playing together!

The advancing army displaying their prowress!
See the pageantry!
The President of Mongolia attended this event and gave an opening address. He also was dressed in the traditional Deel. The strange haunting traditional songs were sung throughout the program giving voice to the ancient way of life during Ghengis Khan's day. I especially liked the Soliders who paraded on horseback around the stadium. Their show of power and strength gave everyone a sense of what it must have been like in the days of Ghengis Khan.

The Soliders parading around the stadium

These horses carrying the traditional flags of Mongolia which symbolize power and strength
The next day we had the honor of driving to the countryside with 1 million other people on the same road to the horse racing.  The one road to the countryside where the races were held was a 4 lane highway - 2 lanes in each direction.  The people coming from the other direction didn't have a chance.  They took over the roadway making a 2-lane highway an 8-lane highway!  It was crazy.  People were so frustrated they began driving on both sides of the road up and down steep inclines, swerving from huge holes and slushy mud many getting stuck.  It was a madhouse.  However, we made it to the race just in time to see the first contestants coming in from their 3-hour race.
Here we all are cruising down the highway!

Everyone waiting for the horses

Here they come!

The race is a 3-hour non-stop race
The crowd began to cheer when they saw the horses coming so everyone came running including those on horseback to see the horses racing neck in neck to the finish!

Everywhere there were people riding horses.  The kids were all flying kites enjoying the special day!

We wandered around some and found a cultural concert just beginning so we joined the others for a enjoying time of hearing all kinds of traditional music!
This group was very good!

I'm not sure how she got in there - very pop rock!  How is that traditional?

This little guy walked right in front of me and I couldn't resist a picture!

He stood up and looked at me and I motioned that I wanted to take his picture, so he posed for me!  Isn't he adorable?
Our hosts who so graciously drove us to the races and endured the nightmare of getting to and from the place are our good friends, Mungoo and her Mom, Nairgui and her Uncle (who is not in the picture).
It was a very interesting and enjoyable Nadam for us.  We learned more about the culture, the people, and their customs.  Now we are off to China!