WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT NAADAM FESTIVAL BEFORE YOU ATTEND?
What does Naadam mean?
According to the book named “TRAVEL”, published from DK, Mongolian Naadam Festival is highlighted the only must see attraction for tourists in July. So, why is this Festival so attractive for both locals and travelers? Naadam is the festival of “National Pride” and it is the only one of its kind; it is a sophisticated and eloquent expression of nomadic culture, it is the honored celebration of a national independence, and it is an outstanding combination of arts and sports.
Here are the 10 interesting facts about the festival you must know before planning the trip.
1. When is the Naadam Festival held?
Naadam Festival is Olympic Games of Mongols and held in the most enjoyable and festive month in the country. The main celebrations will be held annually on 11-13 July at Central Stadium and Khui Doloon Khudag in the country’s capital, Ulaanbaatar. But you have opportunity to enjoy the festival more closely with locals in other parts of the country hold their own as well.
2. WHY “THREE GAMES OF MEN”
Weird, but inspiring ‘Mongolia’s Three Games of Men’-Archery, Horse Racing and Wrestling are the main games. The origin of Naadam Festival is closely related to the history and culture of the country. It was one of the main practice of war. Before and after major battles, the three sports of men- wrestling, horseracing and archery- were exercised as an organized event, which later adopted its present name- Naadam. It is not only sports game including art, tricks, tactics but also ethic and cultural performance such as singing, dance, traditional costume, parade etc.
Mongolians revere certain parts of bones of their livestock and use them in religious rites, plays and traditional games.
In recent years Knuckle Bone Shooting- a team game getting popular and it became “Fourth” main sports of the festival. Teams of six to eight players flick thirty domino-like marble tablets on a smooth wooden surface towards a target of sheep knuckle-bones.
3. WHAT IS MONGOLIAN NATIONAL WRESTLING?
Wrestling is a unique combination of traditional sports manner and cultural elements of eagle dance, long song etc. It also has thousands of years of historical development in Mongolia.
Comparing to other wrestling competitions it has several specialty such as no time, space and weigh limit, 512 wrestlers are typically compete each other by tournament and this number increased to 1024 on the occasion of important anniversaries. Wrestlers must have strong discipline, moral and respectfulness to elders, high titled wrestler and audiences.
There are four main parts in the Mongolian Wrestling costumes including Four-sided hat, shoulder vest & snug shorts (Zodog & Shuudag), Cloak and traditional boots for using men only.
4. MONGOLIAN HORSE RACING
A horse role and culture is the biggest tradition of the Mongols in the daily and national life. Mongolians are said that “Nation born on horseback” and every child who grows in countryside learn to ride a horse when they are 3 to 5 years.
See the longest horse race ridden by children might not imagined.
Actually horse racing is scientifically sport and it races except winter time, when grass grows. To train a horse for race keeping under a special regimen at least one month before race and horse jockeys are usefully between 5 and 13 years of age and lead their horse across the steppes, over various distances between 10 and 26 km depending on horse age.
Soyolon- Five-years-old horse racing is most popular for locals and according to ancient Mongolian myth that says it is possible to charge its spirit and fortune by getting in touch with the whirled up dust and sweat of horse after racing.
Children sing a special song named GIINGOO, a mantra of GOD of HORSE- Khayankhyarvaa before and after racing.
Please notice that Horse Racing field is located 35 km from Ulaanbaatar named Khui Doloon Khudag, on the way you go to Khustai NP or Karakorum.
5. WHAT IS MONGOLIAN ARCHERY?
Due to its traditional lifestyle, ancient people used their version of bows and arrows for hunting and in later it started to be used as a weapon during the battle. During the Naadam Festival, all male, female and child archers who wears traditional costumes, compete in three categories: Khalkh, Buriad and Uriankhai archery, which have differences in the bows and arrows used, as well as the distance of the target. Archery is symbol of strength, vision, patience, sense and concentration. You can enjoy it outside of stadium, before opening ceremony starts, due to it starts early in the morning.
6. HOW THE OPENING CEREMONY GOES?
The opening ceremony starts at 11 A.M after “Nine White Banners” are carried by honored guard from Government Palace to be settled in the middle of Stadium and then the speech of President of Mongolia. Naadam Festival is very colorful event where people revive their Nomadic spirit, history and heritage. Opening ceremony has a great chance to enjoy and photograph Mongolian culture, art performances, song and dance, colorful parade, traditional costumes and miracles of Mongolian military force etc.
Everybody wears the most colorful and attractive traditional costumes with many different styles, like actors wear their best in Red Carpet of Oscars.
Photographers must buy a photo permission from Festival Organizer and it is allowed to photographing and video graphing in white lane. Therefore, please prepare zoom-lenses to capture more authentic photos.
After the ceremony ends Wrestling tournament will start. Most of the tourists enjoy opening ceremony and go to horse racing place.
7. A CHANCE TO EXPERIENCE OTHER CULTURAL EVENTS AT A SAME TIME
There are few cultural events will run under the Hospitable Ulaanbaatar Program between 10 and 15 of July annually. In the afternoon of 10th of July you will fully enjoy Mongolian Traditional Costume Festival- Deeltei Mongol, “Ceremony of Nine White Banners” and in the evening one of the Mongolian best operas “Uchirtai Gurvan Tolgoi-Three Dramatic Character” will be held in open air theatre at the central square.
In the night of 11th of July “Night of Ulaanbaatar”, Mongolian Dance Festival including modern and traditional dance show (12 Jul), Morin Khuur- Horse-headed Fiddle Festival (13 Jul), Ulaanbaatar Swing Night- Jaaz show (14 Jul)- the open air shows will be held in Sukhbaatar Square. Enjoy.
8. WHAT SURROUNDS CENTRAL STADIUM?
From a long time ago Naadam was only fest which gathering local people same time in same place. In the rest of the time nomadic people had very busy to visit each other and they only take care of their livestock, which is not easy job. When they gathered in same place they also do a barter, sell good and talk a gossip etc. Nowadays it is almost same in the area and surroundings of the Central Stadium is too crowd of people, bazaar, entertainment, lottery and food and beverage kiosks like a fair. For instance, if you forget to take your umbrella or sunglass you can buy it from local bazaar as cheap as you can.
TASTE TRADITIONAL MONGOLIAN FOODs & DRINKs
Of course you will ask what is the main dish of Naadam Festival? Definitely “round” KHUUSHUUR, fried dumpling is the main dish and once you taste it, you will never forget the taste and next time eager to eat it. At the stadium, good Khuushuur making kiosk has a queue and they make it quickly in front of you.
Drinking fermented mare’s milk- Airag also known as Kumis is the highlight of the Festival for locals. Because Airag appears only in summer time from June to September. Please don’t miss a chance to drink this alcoholic beverage nearly 5% alcoholic content.
HOW DOES IT TASTE? I want to say JUST DRINK IT.
9. JOIN LOCAL NAADAM FESTIVAL OUTSIDE OF ULAANBAATAR
Local Naadam Festival is more attractive for travelers, because of truly authentic, enthusiastic, no dramatic and allows you to experience first-hand by visiting locals. Here you can photograph and talk with locals without any prohibition. Mongolian traditional Ger dwelling used to be as restaurants in countryside. Most of the people ride a horse and run through the vast steppe without any traffic rule.
The festival is like a small fair. Local people come from all the province to either participate in the festivals to sell food and toys, or to run small carnival games for children and youngsters.
If you don’t like too touristic things LOCAL NAADAM is the best choice.
10. HOW TO BOOK HOTEL AND TICKETS OF NAADAM FESTIVAL?
July is the PEAK SEASON of tourists. While it is peak, the price of accommodation is doubled (desk rate price) and must book it at least 6 months before. Centrally located accommodation even guesthouses are fully booked in this time. Tour operator and local agents will be your reliable partner in the field.
Central stadium has 18 sections and four of them use for tourists. Nowadays booking a NAADAM TICKET by online is impossible. Ticket price for tourist section with roof is 25$, but you need to buy both opening and closing ceremony tickets. It will be sold a week before it runs and it is not easy to buy individually even for Mongolians.
Therefore, tour companies are best choice to book and arrange both accommodations, tickets and tour throughout Mongolia.
Ayan travel team is expert for arranging tours of Naadam festival which was named as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity of UNESCO in 2010, as soon as you’re different interest, expectation of tour such as discovery and photography tours.
Here is the link might help you to plan your trip to Mongolia during the truly authentic Festival of Nomads- Naadam.
Suggested tour: Mongolia Naadam Festival - 2019 Tour-11 days
If you are passionate with photography we suggest following tours: Classic Mongolia Photography tour-14 days
Or if you have limited time to travel in Mongolia and need to experience and photograph local and city Naadam Festival on the same trip, then we recommend : Naadam to Naadam Guided Photo Tour