As football fever sweeps the globe, a very different sporting event kicks off in Mongolia next week. Rather than 22 men and a ball, this line up includes up to 1024 of the strongest of wrestlers, 1000s of the fastest horses and marksmen that hit the spot at 75 metres – let alone the 12 yard line. This is Naadam.
‘Naadam’ derives from the three essential skills any warrior of the great Chinngis Khaan’s army mastered; strength, speed, and a mean shot with a bow and arrow. Since the 1921 declaration of independence from China, the Festival has been used as a commemoration of Mongolian culture, celebrated each July.
At Goyo Travel we believe that it is best to find one of the provincial capital Naadams, which are small enough to put you right in among the action yet also big enough to warrant a little pageantry and excitement during the more traditional opening ceremonies.
Attending a rural Naadam allows you to try out your eagle dance alongside famous local wrestlers, feel the wind rush as the horses gallop by and see the concentration on the faces on the marksmen up close and personal. Or, away from the relative glitz and glamour of the big three sports, these events are great for simply soaking up the atmosphere and rubbing shoulders with locals.
Festivals are a huge part of Mongolian culture, springing from the fact many families live a fairly isolated life, so any chance to come in off the steppe, get together and see friends of old is welcomed with much excitement. Expect to see Nomads in their finest, dine on first rate, home-made Khuushuur, share Airag, snap wonderful photos (without the need for a long lenses) and all in all partake in a far more authentic cultural experience away from the city crowds.
This is why our Naadam group trips favour festivals in places such as Hatgal by the magnificent Lake Khovsgol on our Colours or Naadam – Northern Lakes tour, or Sevrei amid the plains of the Gobi on our Southern Sands trip.
The 2018 Naadam season may be upon us, however, if the event is now firmly on your bucket list please get in touch to discuss visiting this cultural treasure in 2019 and beyond.