Naadam Festival is being celebrated nationally, in the whole of Mongolia. But, the largest festival is held in Ulaanbaatar. Festival in other rural areas are held before or after the one in Ulaanbaatar, so that the people could celebrate at both their hometown and capital.
Our host insisted we must watch Naadam Festival, because it's really huge for them, and because we've never experienced before. Before we actually reached Ulaanbaatar, our host family went to queue for the entrance tickets for the opening ceremony in the stadium. Unfortunately (or fortunately, I'll explain later), they didn't manage to get the tickets. They're sold out!
So, instead of watching Naadam in the capital, we witnessed the festival in a small small town, called Jargalt Khan. I tried to google this place after my trip, I can't even find anything about it. This small!
The first game we watched was wrestling. The first impression I had for the game was, what the hell were they doing, it's so unfair?!?!
|First round in wrestling|
Then, my host explained to me. The wrestlers have to go through 9 rounds of eliminations. And the more famous wrestlers got to chose their opponents, therefore, they always chose the smaller ones in the first few rounds to ensure they have the continuation in the game.
|Eagle dance before the game, it's a ritual|
|Judges of wrestling|
I'm not quite sure about you, I personally don't like wrestling. I lost of my interest pretty fast so I moved to the other stations. I turned to archery, imagining Robin Hood doing that.
|She's pretty "you yeng" isn't she?|
At the end of the day, it's the event that everybody is waiting for. It's the horse racing. Horse racing in Mongolia is different from the ones we watch normally. It's not a sprint for short distance. The racers and horses have to march to the starting point which are 20-40km away, then, race their way back.
There are few categories in horse racing, from age 2 (the horse age!) to 7-8years old. And the riders, they're all young kids! So young! Age not more than 10 perhaps! And imagine, some of them race 40km without saddles, because saddles add weight to the horse and could slow them down in the race.
|First two horses are back|
It is believed that if one managed to touch the champion horse's sweat, it'll bring luck for the rest of the year. Also, the dust from the horses while racing will bring luck too! However, it was raining for two days during Naadam Festival, there wasn't any dust, therefore nobody was chasing behind the horses.
Well, why was it fortunate that we didn't manage to watch this in Ulaanbaatar? To be honest, I like the local settings of the small town festival. It is so much more closed knit than the city. And not so commercial too. We are the only tourists in the town! And, I managed to touch the sweat! I will be lucky for the rest of the year! I'd love to believe this :)