[A friend of ours threw down a gauntlet to have me write more, so here I am! Quite frankly, I’m appalled at how little I’ve written since Baby 3 was born, but it’s time to shake off the ennui and get back into the writing game.]
A Mongolian ger–better known in the West by the Russian word yurt–is the traditional housing of the Asian steppes. Different locations have slight variations (higher roofs with steeper pitches, for example), but they are essentially built in the same way and accommodate the same sort of lifestyle: nomadic pastoralism. The beauty of the ger is in its transportability and adaptability. It can be modified to the seasons and moved with herds and flocks of livestock.
A ger‘s structure is as follows: a collapsible wooden lattice that forms the circular walls, center poles that support the tonoo (skylight), a series of poles that fit into the tonoo and rest on the tops of the lattice walls, an exterior door, and one or more coverings that fit over the frame to seal the building. Ropes woven from horse hair are used to tie everything together (such as the poles to the lattice and the coverings to the exterior). The coverings on the ger include a felt layer (for insulation) and a canvas layer for protection from the elements. Modern ger will also use plastic sheeting to add another layer of water resistance. The felt layer is made from sheep’s wool, which is abundant in Mongolia.
Setting up a ger means that you face the building towards the south, presumably to cut down on wind chill from the north, aka Siberia. A Mongolian family can set up or tear down a ger in about an hour. Don’t ask how many hours it takes a group of foreign English teachers to do the same task. 😉
In upcoming posts, I plan to write about the furnishings inside a ger as well as the various beliefs and traditions associated with the traditional housing. For now, I need to sign off.