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Naadam and the Golden Eagle: Two timeless Trans-Mongolian festivals

With the coming of July and the onset of summer in the Northern Hemisphere, Trans-Mongolian destinations are beginning celebrations for the warmer months of the year.

One of these destinations is Mongolia, and the country will be celebrating summer with its annual Naadam Festival, a celebration that – at its core – dates back to the Khan dynasty, beginning with the founder of the Mongol empire, Genghis Khan (1162–1272).

Naadam Festival (July 2019/20)

Naadam Festival Mongolia
Experience Naadam on Sundowners Overland’s Trans Mongolian with Naadam Festival tour.

Running from 11–13 July, Naadam is an annual and traditional Mongolian festival that celebrates archery, horse-riding and wrestling – three sports thought to have been Genghis Khan’s most essential skills for a Mongolian warrior.

Today every district of Mongolia has their own celebrations, with the best athletes being sent to the main showdown in the capital of Ulaanbaatar, where guests on Sundowners Overland’s Trans Mongolian with Naadam Festival will join the crowds.

Although the festival consists of historically male-oriented sports, both men and women compete in archery.
Although the festival consists of historically male-oriented sports, both men and women compete in archery.
Horseriding
Jockeys competing in Naadam’s horse-racing must be between the ages of 6 and 13, with both boys and girls competing alongside one another. Saddles are optional.

Mongolian knuckle-bone shooting is also played during Naadam as an unofficial fourth sport.

The sport is played between teams of six to eight players who flick thirty domino-like marble tablets on a smooth wooden surface towards a target of sheep knuckle-bones, with the aim of knocking the tablets into a target zone, while shooters sing traditional knuckle-bone shooting melodies and songs.

Owing to its value as ‘living human heritage’, knuckle-bone shooting was inscribed on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2014.

Another event that has been enshrined for its heritage value by UNESCO is the practice of eagle hunting, which your clients can experience during the Golden Eagle Festival in September each year.

Golden Eagle Festival (September–October 2019/20)

Wild Mongolia and Golden Eagle Festival

Another noteworthy festival on the Mongolian calendar is the Golden Eagle Festival – an annual, traditional festival held in Bayan-Ölgii aimag, in western Mongolia – which showcases the falconry and horsemanship skills of the Kazakh eagle hunters.

Experienced during Sundowners Overland’s Wild Mongolia and Golden Eagle Festivalfalconry is becoming increasingly popular with tourists in part due to its depiction in the recent release of BBC’s Human Planet series and the 2016 film The Eagle Huntress. 

Golden Eagle Festival Mongolia
Experience a piece of living human heritage during the Wild Mongolia and Golden Eagle Festival.

With the festival taking part in September and ending in October, Sundowners Overland’s tour of Mongolia puts your clients in the right place at the right time for the festival, while also taking in the Tsenkher Hot Springs, Altai Mountains and Tavan Bogd National Park during a 16-day itinerary.

But what does a competition of archery, horse-riding and wrestling have in common with the Golden Eagle Festival of Mongolia?

The answer is that both of them can be experienced on Sundowners Overland’s tours visiting Mongolia and the Trans-Mongolian Railway.

For more information on Sundowners Overland’s travel options visiting Mongolia, click here.

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