10 Things You Might Not Know About: Mongolia

Lonely steppes, wild animals, and hospitable nomads – welcome to Mongolia! The “Land of Blue Skies” is the ultimate destination for everyone who wants to experience pure nature away from the crowds. But Mongolia is also home to a creative breeding ground for globally recognized and award-winning filmmakers, Olympic champions, and world-famous scientists. Although Mongolia is one of the world’s largest countries in terms of area, it only borders two other states: Russia and China. And with almost 3 million inhabitants on 1.5 million km², Mongolia is also the most sparsely populated state after Greenland. Nearly half of the population lives in the capital Ulaanbaatar. But there are various other facts about this fascinating country that we’d love you to know!

“Animal Jam” vs. Traffic Jam

The likelihood of being stuck in a traffic jam caused by herds of cows, sheep, goats, camels, and horses is higher in Mongolia than one created by cars. Since there are still vast, untouched natural spaces here, many animals feel quite comfortable, including rarer animal species such as the Snow Leopard, the Gobi Bear & the critically endangered Saiga Antelope.

The Story of the Weeping Camel

Nominated for Best Documentary at the 77th Academy Awards 2005, The Tale of the Weeping Camel gives a rare glimpse into Mongolian life. Byamasuren Davaa shot the documentary in 2003 together with the director and cameraman Luigi Falorni during his studies at the University of Television and Film Munich. The documentary shows the intimate relationship that the Mongolians have with nature when folk music is played to restore harmony between a mother camel and the calf that rejected them.

Alphabet

Genghis Khan himself was illiterate. However, he introduced the first writing system to Mongolia in the early 13th century. He borrowed the script from the Uyghurs, which is written vertically from left to right. 

In 1930 Mongolia adopted the Latin alphabet, which was quite soon replaced again in 1941 with the Cyrillic alphabet and added two additional letters for “ö” and “ü” sounds.

Where Dinosaurs Once Roamed…

Ancient skeleton in cave. Element of design.

In the 1920s, fossilized dinosaur remains were found in the Gobi Desert, along with the first dinosaur eggs. Studies revealed that the desert’s environment was vastly different from what it was today when the dinosaurs lived. Today, it is regarded as the world’s biggest dinosaur fossil reservoir, with many dinosaur fossils still lying exposed.

Young Blood

A third of the population is between 18 and 35 years old. Mongolia’s future is in good hands as most of the younger generation studies abroad and returns to share their knowledge. So don’t be surprised if most business meetings are with young business people, executives, and artists.

Wild Horses

While man and horse have been great friends for quite a while, Mongolia has still had a number that roams free, meaning it’s the last country on earth with wild horses roaming free. Takhi, which means ‘spirit’ in Mongolian, is the only undomesticated horses left today. In the west, they are also known as Przewalski’s horse. A sad fact to remember is that Takhi is an endangered species. This is thanks to the Human development of their natural habitat on the steppes.

The Oldest National Park

Although many mistakenly think America’s Yellowstone National Park is the oldest national park in the world, there’s one that is over 100 years older. The area surrounding Bogd Khan Uul Mountain is actually the oldest national park, established by the Mongolian government in 1778. While located south of the country’s capital, Ulaanbaatar, it takes three to four hours to hike. There are several cultural sites surrounding the park, including the ruins of Manzushir Monastery, Buddha Park, and Zaisan Memorial.

The Real Inventors of Ice Cream?

There is a theory that the inventors of our so loved ice cream might’ve come from Mongolia. It is said that around 700 years ago, Mongolian horsemen would take animal intestines on long journeys to store cream inside. The combination of the freezing temperature outside and being vigorously shaken on the horse produced an ice-cream like substance. And when the Mongol Empire expanded, their “ice cream” made its way through China, where Marco Polo is believed to bring this idea back home to Italy, when he returned from his travels in 1295. 

Airag

The Mongols love to drink Airag, a fermented dairy product made of horse milk. Airag is also the traditional national drink of Mongolia. It’s quite common for the country’s nomadic people to greet their guests with a bowl of this drink. If you’re a guest and reject taking at least a sip, it’s considered highly impolite. 

Genghis Khan is a Title, not a Name

Genghis Khan’s real name was Temujin. Surprised? In fact, “Genghis Khan” is a title given to him once he united all Mongolian tribes and founded the Mongol Empire. “Temujin” translates to “blacksmith,” whereas “Genghis Khan” in Mongolian means “Universal Ruler.”