My friends I am from Mongolia. The Mongolian life style is totally different than Europeans, other Asians, Americans, Africans, and South Americans. Mongolia is located in central Asia. There is as wide a range of people in Mongolia as there are types of land. Even now a large percentage of Mongolian people still live in Teepee’s and Gers. The Mongols that live in teepees are the Tsaatans and are also known by many as the “Reindeer People” their lifestyle depends on the reindeer that they have domesticated. In many ways they remind people of the native American Indian. They live in the northern part of Mongolia in Hovsgol Aimag near the Russian border and have a distinctive dialect of their own.
In cities like Ulaanbaatar (Mongolian capital city) people live in apartments and houses that are similar to the ones in American and European cities. On the outskirts of the cities and throughout the countryside people live in the traditional Mongolian home that is called a Ger. Mongolians have been using the Ger for over 2500 years. It has changed and evolved over this time period from a simple structure similar to the teepee to the complex moveable year around home that it is today. In fact the word Ger in the Mongolian language means “Home” it is a very important part of the Mongolian heritage.

(First home was called Urts which means Teepee, over theyears the shape was modified for increased efficiency. )

The Ger is weatherproof and easily transportable constructed using a wooden floor and lattice wall that is easily assembled and disassembled. The Mongolian people that live in the countryside are for the most part nomadic herders that move with the seasons. Some own permanent houses or apartments in one of the cities but most don’t have anything but their Ger.

(Old style Ger)

Their herds consist of camels, horses, yaks or beef cattle, sheep and goats. These nomadic herders move with the seasons, in general they will make major moves four times a year with some minor moves in between depending on graze availability and water. Some of these herding families will only have one Ger a few horses and fifty to a hundred animals. Other more prosperous families will have three to five Gers several trucks, jeeps generators, satellite dishes and thousands of animals.
The Ger is constructed of many parts and comes in up to five different sizes depending on how many people will be living there or how it will be used. The ger consist of a wood floor called a shal that comes in sections. The walls called khana (there can be from two to eleven sections of these depending on the size of the Ger, each section being approximately two and a half meters long) are made from a wood lattice design that allows for strength and flexibility so they can be folded easily. They are built without using any nails or metal fasteners, all joints are connected using rope. (1.Haalga-door, 2.orh-shutter, 3.Ger
4.bagana-post, 5.toono-crown, 6.hana-wall, 7.shal-floor, 8-9 burees-felt. )

The roof is supported by the crown in the center called the toono which looks like a concave wagon wheel with eight windows, the toono is supported in turn by either two, four or six post called bagana that run from the floor to the crown. The number of bagana and the size of the toono is determined by the size or circumference of the Ger. The rafters which are called uni (there can be from 46 up to 88 of these depending on the size of the Ger) lock into holes that are cut into the side of the toono and the other end is wedged into the khana and is locked in place by a rope loop called unii oosor that is attached to the uni.

The exterior covering is made up of four layers. These are; dotuur burees which is a white cotton sheet that will be what you see from the interior of the Ger, esgii burees which is a thick insulation sheet made from felted sheep wool and goat hair, berzeent burees which is a waterproof canvas type sheet and geriin burees a white cotton sheet which finishes off the coverings. These sheets are held in place by ropes. There are four ropes pulled across the top and tied to stakes driven into the ground as well as four more ropes which are wound around the walls of the Ger and tied off to rings anchored in the frame of the Gers haalga or door. The Ger is finished off with a skirt around the bottom called a geriin hayavch which is usually made of a water proof material against which soil is compacted to insulate against winter cold and to help protect from high winds.
When setting up your Ger you want to have a level dry area, then you install the shal then the haalga frame and khana. Then you stand up the toono and bagana after this you insert the uni into the toono and wedge it into the khana and secure it with the unii oosor. You attach these at opposite sides for example as if on a clock you would insert them at 12:00 then 6:00 3:00 then 9:00 and so on until all the uni are hooked up.

(Installing uni from toono to khana)

When building the Ger all the bulky pieces of furniture as well as the cook stove is placed on the floor before installing the walls as they will not fit through the door or haalga after the Ger is finished. The haalga to the Ger is always placed facing south. The cook stove is placed in the center of the Ger with the pipe going up through one of spaces in the toono half of the other spaces in the toono have glass, the other half are open for ventilation and the toono serves as a skylight for the ger. On top of the toono is a shutter called the orh that can be closed with a cord that hangs down through the toono at night or in case it rains, snows, sleets or gets too cold and windy. Even in the coldest winters on the steppe the Ger will keep you warm and alive.
(Finished framework covering is next)

Inside most Gers are arranged in the following manner, if looking at the floor plan of the Ger like a clock then from 11 - 1 is for the homeowners bed (these beds serve as a couch or a daybed in daytime) from 1 - 2 are storage chest or wardrobe, from 2 - 4 another daybed, from 4 - 5:30 is the kitchen area, from 5:30 to 6:30 is the door, from 6:30 - 8 is the sink and storage, from 8 - 10 another daybed and from 10 - 11 is either a chest or a desk. If privacy is desired then a curtain can be hung from the uni to enclose each bed. In the center of the Ger is a low table with short stools as well as the stove that serves a dual purpose as cook stove and heat source. When entering a Ger you always circle around clockwise as this is our tradition, when guest enter a Ger they will sit on the left side of the Ger between the 8 - 10 position and exit clockwise. When visiting people living in Gers if you are wearing a hat do not put it on the bed unless you want to spend the night with them.
(Ger's ceiling)

(Finished Ger)

(Inside Ger)

Written by S.Uzmee
Edited by James Pigg

Some material adapted from B.Sodnom’s Mongolian Wool Gers Dictionary
Pictures and drawings from Mongolian Architecture by N. Tsultem

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