Introduction

Yurt (called ger in Mongolian) is a round wooden-framed traditional dwelling and, probably, the most identifiable symbol of Mongols. Yurts are environmentally friendly, spacious, stable, adaptable, portable, weather proof, warm in arctic cold, yet cool in summer and durable. Its history goes back 2500-3000 years BC, while the first version of the yurt could be ancient teepee-type shelters made from dry branches and covered with animal skins. The "modern" shape of the Mongolian yurt, is much more spacious and airy than the teepee-shaped shelters common in many other nomadic cultures. Due to the vertical walls that hold up the pitched part of the roof, and the thereby created almost immediate head height, the mongolian ger (yurt) feels much more like a house than a tent.

Ideally suited to Mongolia 's nomadic way of life and harsh weather, the yurt has been the most popular dwelling in Mongolia for centuries. Yurts even today remain the preferred year-round home to the majority of rural Mongols in the 21 st century. Even the suburbs of Mongolia's capital Ulaanbaatar consist entirely of yurts.

 

Mongolian Symbolism and the Yurt

Due to the powerful desire of the nomads to be in constant harmony with the universe, they define objects according to the relationship they have with the Heaven and spirits, and not with the object's identity or use. Following that logic, the yurt represents a microcosm in itself. The hierarchy that underlies the spatial organization of the ger (yurt) clearly reveals the ger's sacred aspects. The hearth is at the center of the yurt. The central pillar i.e. the smoke hole at the top of the tent is directly related to the cosmic axis i.e. a ‘highway for the spirits.' Inside the ger, everything is understood through its relationships with sacret objects and the behavior of each person within this microcosm. Any act that threatens the sacred character of the space threatens the balance and happiness of the family. This principle is the origin of many prohibitions and taboos - including magical ones - that surround Mongolian ger living.

For example, stepping on the doorstep of a ger is an offence to the spirit of the door frame, tantamount to stamping symbolically on the neck of the master of the house. Or pointing the heals of your shoes towards the central hearth is regarded as showing disrespect to the spirit of fire. Even worse of an offense to the spirit of fire, is to spit into the fire or throw garbage into its flames. The fire in fact is known as the god of life and represents the link between the ancestors and their descendants and symbolizes the succession of generations.

 

Yurt in the 21 st Century

Next to all the traditional ways of full-time living in a yurt, a yurt can be used for any imaginable purpose. Some ideas:

The possibilities are endless! Please also check out the yurt interiors page (see link below)

They are remarkably comfortable during the summer heat: open the flap over the roof ring and hike up the canvas around the Yurt - and you set up a nice convection current and stay cool all day.

The packed Yurt can be transported in small van or truck (or pulled on a cart by a camel or yak).

The covers are of thick felt, made from of Mongolian sheep wool, with a outer cotton layer. Sizes of yurts range from 13 ft to 45 ft in diameter.

The structure of the Mongolian yurt has a legendary stability - no steppe winds or snowstorms could take it down.

The secret is that, unlike regular tents, the yurt does not rely on uniquely on ropes or canvas to hold itself up - rather, the walls, roof ring and rafters, and tensioning bands all work against each other and provide a much more unwavering structure.

 

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