Mongolian Ger Toono

Mongolian ger

Mongolian ger

With a history of over a thousand years, this portable dwelling made of wood lashed together with leather thongs and covered with felt is the home of the Mongolian nomads. Easy to erect and dismantle, Mongolian ger, its furnishings, and the stove inside can be carried by just three camels, or wagons pulled by yaks.

Dismantled Mongolian Ger

The average Mongolian ger is small but spacious enough to provide adequate living space for a family, is wind resistant, and has good ventilation. Gers are constructed of a latticed wood structure covered with layers of felt and canvas. A lattice frame of narrow birch and willow laths is held together by leather strips. The sections are about 2 meters long and are bound together to form a large circular structure. This collapsible lattice is called khana. The average ger uses four to eight khana, with six being the most popular size. 

Mongolian ger without cover

The door-frame is a separate unit, as is the ceiling formed from an umbrella-like frame-work of slender poles called uni, which are lashed to the khana on one end and slotted into the toono, a circular frame, at the top. Traditionally, the door was a felt flap attached to the door-frame, but most nomads now use a carved or painted wooden door. In the center of the toono is a small hole which allows smoke to escape and fresh air and light to enter. Each Mongolian ger is heated by a small metal stove fueled with dried dung or wood.

Nomadic herder outside his ger

The entrance of the ger always faces south. Once the wooden framework is lashed together, it is covered with layers of felt and canvas. The felt helps the ger retain heat and the canvas over it sheds rain. Ropes made of hair and wool hold the thick layer of felt in place. During the summer, one layer of felt is used, but during the winter, two or three layers are necessary. Travelers to Mongolia will have the opportunity to sleep in traditional gers while staying with nomadic families or at ger camps. And while home staying with a nomadic family, please keep in mind that Mongolian ger has customs attached to it that are unique.

The Do’s and Don’ts inside a ger:

  • When Mongolians arrive at a Ger, they yell, ‘Catch your dog!’, or simply enter. This is because every Ger is protected by one or more guard dogs. Do not leave your vehicle or approach a Ger until the owners or your guide confirms that it is safe to approach the dogs.
  • Do not attempt to pet a Mongolian herder’s dogs; they are not pets but guardians.
  • Knocking on a Ger door is not necessary. If you are staying with a family, just enter. If you are calling for the first time, clear your throat or call out ‘No-khoi kho-rio’ (‘Hold the dog’) so the family knows someone is there and can prepare themselves to come out and greet you.
  • When you enter a Ger, do not step on the threshold.
  • Do not walk between the central supports of a Ger or pass something between them to another person.
  • Do not lean against the central supports of the Ger, the walls or the furniture.
  • Sitting on the beds in the Ger is not considered rude; beds double as seats, sometimes even if someone is sleeping in them!
  • Do not whistle inside Gers or any building.
  • Do not throw any trash or litter into the fire. This is disrespectful to the fire. Put the trash into the fuel bin or in the metal pan in front of the stove. It will be saved to start the next fire. ‘Trash’ is transformed into ‘fuel’ when it is placed in the fuel bin.

HOMESTAY TOURS

A very special way to discover the lifestyle and traditions of the Mongols is to home-stay a few days with nomadic families. Accompanied by a translator, for a short while you will become a nomadic family member. Grazing the herds, riding horses and eating the local cuisine are just a small part of the whole experience.

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