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Michael Plavsic
"Hello Tuvshinbat.
It has been a week since I came back from Mongolia (ref. Discover Mongolia Tour and Naadam Festival - 17 days, July 1 - 17). I am not sure if you are into receiving feedback from your visitors but you could at least forward this email to someone else in Discover Mongolia if required (e.g. Tour Operator). In short I had a wonderful trip; all the credits to the Discover Mongolia crew headed by Mugu the guide and nicely followed by the drivers Amra, Bagi and Dovchin. Say hi to them all. The group we traveled with was also very nice. Thanks again for your efforts to arrange everything for me. It's been a great experience. I will be back in Mongolia. "
from Canada
Judy Jackson
"Hello Oyunaa
The tour was wonderful. Everything worked out fine and just as planned. I will be happy to recommend Discover Mongolia and we plan to come back again next year! My only suggestion is that we should have had a four wheel drive vehicle for Elsen Tasarhai. We had a little problem in the sand and could not drive everyplace. The guides were great, especially Hishi in UlaanBataar, and the drivers were very good."
from USA

Naadam festival

The Mongolian national holiday Naadam is celebrated in Mongolia each year on 11 July. "Eriin gurvan naadam" the three manly games of wrestling, horse racing, and archery- make up the core activities of the National day festivals.

Wrestling - At the start of competition all the wrestlers with the higher title - holder in front , enter the hall in a line wearing gutuls (decorated Mongolian boots. ) and hats and their wrestling costumes called "zodog"(an open fronted , long sleeves vest of silk) and "shuudag"(tight short trunks ). There are many different titles for the wrestlers such as Titan (avarge), Lion (arslan). Zaan and Falcon. All the names signify strength. Titles are mostly confirmed during the national festival Naadam. A wrestler who wins five fights in succession during one competition has the right to have the title of Falcon, and if he wins seven fights in succession Elephant. When a wrestler wins all the fights in a competition during one of these festivals he will be a Lion. If he wins a subsequent year he merits the title of titan, the highest rank. There is a variety of throws used to defeat opponents. Some say there are hundreds of them. When the wrestling arena or step onto the carpet in the case of an indoor competition and the second take off the wrestler's hats.

When a wrestler touches the ground with any part of his body other than his feet and arms, he is considered to be defeat. The main difference between Mongolian national wrestling and international free style wrestling is that the weight category of wrestlers is not taken into consideration.

Horse racing. Mongolian people have loved horse racing since time immemorial. A whole system for conducting the contests has developed over the centuries. In the races held during national festivals, including Naadam, participants are six age groups and the distances range from 15-30kms. No special tracks are prepared, the horses covering the distance in the steppe and jumping over natural barriers. Before they start the riders sing an ancient war-like song -Giingoo. The competitors start at the finishing line and at the signal to start and back to the finish line. Thus the distance is actually doubled. The horse racing can be held on saddled or unsaddled horses. Horses of two years older take part. The winner is honored with a cup of airag which he drinks and sprinkles on the head and croup of his horse. After the races, praise-singer extols the best riders and their horses.

Archery: the third element of the national games is archery. Five lines engraved on an ancient Mongolian target immortalize the phenomenal record of Yesuhei- baatar, saying that his arrow hit the target at a distance of 536 meters. The bow is an ancient invention going back to the Mesolithic Period. Ancient Mongolians made their contribution to the design of the bow as a combat weapon.

Today Mongolian's use less complicated form archery than in ancient time; the target is 'wall' made of cork cylinders braided together with leader straps. It is four meters long and 50cm high. The target is placed on the ground at a distance of 75 meters for men and 60 meters for women. In the past Mongolians used three types of bows; "big hand" (165-170cm),"average hand" (160cm), "small hand' (150cm). Today Mongolian's mostly use the average hand bow which requires a force of 22 to 38kg to draw it.

Arrows are usually made from pine wood and had feather fins which help the arrow to reach distance of 900 meters. Naadam archery also attracts individual archers as well as Teams of 8-12 people. Every male archer has forty arrows to shot at each target. The judges dressed in national attire, stand by the targets with hands held up after the arrows have been shot. They praise the best shot in a drawing recitative voice. The contests are accompanied by colorful national rites. Before the competition starts you hear the recitative song "uukhai', calling on the archers to be good marksmen and hit the target.


Mongol New Year

Mongolia and a number of other Eastern and Central Asian countries have followed the lunar calendar with its 12 year animal cycle since ancient times. The New Year according to the Oriental calendar in Mongolia is called Tsagaan sar which translate white month. There are many options about the origin of this name. One is that Mongols belietsagaan sar - ve white symbolizes happiness, purity and abundance of milk products. The date of Tsagaan sar, depending on the phases of the moon, falls anywhere between the end of January and early March. Tsagaan sar is a birthday for all Mongols. Mongol families start preparations for a holiday almost a month a head. First of all there is a tradition to prepare plenty of gifts and food, in other words to have one's hand's full. Also gers, sheds and pens should be cleaned out. Every Mongol family makes hundred of buuzs and bunshes. Mongols like to greet the New Year in everything new. So women sew new dels for the whole family. According to custom Mongols kill a sheep, the fattest in the flock. Then the lower back with the tail is boiled and served on the table for the entire holiday. Tsagaan sar symbolizes wealth and prosperity in the family. The New Year eve in Mongolia is called Bituun - the last dinner of the old year. Beginning at noon family begins to set up the table. There must be several dishes; a dish with the boiled sheep's back tail a dish with ul boov (traditional bread biscuit), a dish with the berees (rice cooked with butter , sugar and raisins) and dish with traditional milk products; aaruul. Byaslag (unsalted cheese), cream, etc. one must eat all the traditional dishes that evening; boiled lamb and beef, huge variety of milk products, buzes and dessert. Some families have the tradition of placing coins inside the banshes. Whoever bites into the bansh with them coins will have good luck. At the end of the evening everyone's stomach is fully satisfied. The following morning everyone rises bright and early according to tradition (about 6-7 o clock). On this morning there are many customs to follow. The first is to greet the sun; everyone watches the sun rise. Second in order to have good health and happiness in the New Year, each individual must take "their first steps of the year". Everyone takes some steps in a specific direction. The direction is dependent upon what lunar calendar year one was born in. for ex, a person who was born in the mouse year must take the first steps to the north at the first day of the monkey year. The following year the direction will be different. After the fist steps are take, all family members re-enter their home. At this point the traditional Tsagaan sar greetings begin. The oldest family member is greeted first. They are seated at the north side of the ger -the most respected side of the ger. The next oldest family member is the first to greet. This member carries the hadag- a beautiful piece of blue silk - across their arms. A cup filled with milk is placed in the right hand on the silk. This person greets the oldest family member by saying"Sar shinedee saihan shinelj bna uu?" and then gives the silk and milk to them. The younger member has her or his palms facing upward and grasps the older one's elbows. The older member has palms faced down, and the arms are above the younger. While this occurring, the two kiss one other on each cheek. tsagaan sar - (This kiss, not exactly kiss, is the touching of one's cheeks) On this day 'all family members show their respect and love through this greeting. After the second oldest member has finished the greeting, the one family member greets the oldest member. Then they continue to greet one another and give gifts. After the greetings, the food is placed on the table and the eating and drinking begins once again. The drinks consist of airag and vodka. The almost favorable drink during this holiday is Mongol milk tea. The woman who is head of the house continually cooks, and serves, cleans all day. Her children help her with all of the work.

At this point, guests begin to arrive and continue to all day long. The greetings continue as well as the gift- giving. The conversation greetings with the guests are a little different. Usually, question is asked about livestock's how they survived through the winter, if they are healthy, etc.

During this period it is expect that all family members visit one another. The greetings should be finished within 15 days then Tsagaan Sar has ended.

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