Suggestion: if you’re a vegan, maybe just skip this post.
Continuing our series on Mongolian industries, today we’re looking at two related industries. The first one that I’ve mentioned in the past is that of textiles manufactured from local livestock. Due to Mongolia’s harsh winter climate, wool (and fur/leather) is a valuable aspect of cold weather clothing. In addition to sheep wool, Mongolians produce and manufacture cashmere (from goats), camel wool, and yak wool. These natural fibers all make for very warm clothing. I personally own several pairs of yak wool socks, and can attest to their coziness! We also have a camel wool blanket and several cashmere clothing items.
Felt is also manufactured from wool and used for insulation on gers, aka yurts, or as shoe and boot insoles, which add another layer of protection from the frozen ground in winter. I’ve also seen felted slippers, bags, hats, and house decor. We have a set of tree ornaments made from felt as well as some small decorative knick knacks. If memory serves correctly, my mother purchased a felted teapot cozy one of the times she visited us.
Mongolians themselves consume a large portion of these various textile goods, but clothing and accessories are also exported to other countries as well. Oh, and of course, tourists to Mongolia are also fans of purchasing Mongolian textiles. A popular textile choice is that of Kazakh embroidery (featured below). There is a Kazakh ethnic minority in Mongolia (located predominantly in western Mongolia), and they have a unique style of embroidery.
In addition to textiles, Mongolia manufactures a plethora of other animal products. Leather goods are readily available, and custom options are affordable. Leather boots, jackets, belts, and handbags are produced locally. It’s common to find combination items that use leather, fur, and other textiles. Example: a leather coat with fur trim and wool interior layer. A popular item in winter are reindeer boots, although my understanding is that many of these are imported from Russian Siberia. (I could very easily be wrong about that.)
Meat and dairy are both produced and processed in Mongolia. Meat products come from sheep, goats, camels, yaks, and horses, and can be found as fresh meat, dried meat, or processed into a number of different products. As far as dairy products go, I don’t think I’ve seen a place with as wide a variety of dairy products as Mongolia. (Possible exception: France, but only because of the diversity of their cheeses.) Dairy products come from the same animals listed above that provide meat, and yes, you can find them in grocery stores. Yogurt, curds, fermented mare’s milk, fresh milk (usually UHT), aaruul, cheese, butter, sour cream, etc., are all made locally. Herders in the countryside make most of these at home, but you can also find them in stores in UB and other cities. To our Western palates, some of the dairy products have a much stronger taste than what we’re accustomed to, but personally, I think they taste good. Some foreigners aren’t keen on certain flavors, but you’ll never know what you like until you try it all! 😉