4. CULTURAL & HISTORICAL HERITAGES

MONGOLIAN CULTURE: MONGOL GER

The Ger has been the main habitation of Central Asian nomads for thousands of years and continues to be the main form of dwelling in the Mongolian steppe. These structures are known in many parts of the world by their Russian name, yurt, while in Mongolia these sturdy, attractive homes are called Ger.

A ger is easy to assemble, dismantle and carry. Depending on the size, a yurt can be assembled or dismantled in anywhere from thirty minutes to three hours. After dismantling, the various parts of the yurt are loaded onto camels, horses and ox carts for transport.  Today it fits nicely on a small all-terrain vehicle. As nomadic herders move at least three or four times a year in the search for good grazing lands, this feature is of essential importance.


Ger is warm enough to keep the coldest winter temperatures at bay and strong enough to withstand strong winds and the demands of a whole family.


A ger has an opening in the center of the roof, which is called the crown or Toono. Because the crown is located at the top, fresh air regularly circulates through the yurt as cold air flows down and hot air flows upward.


The highlands and open plains of Mongolia are quite windy. On the open steppes and in desert regions, the wind can be strong enough to knock over any other type of portable dwelling. The circular shape of the yurt and secure manner in which the outer covering is attached deflect these winds and do not affect the yurt’s stability, regardless of the direction from which the wind originates.


The yurt or ger is probably the most practical temporary dwelling available, being:

  • Portable- a nine foot yurt will fit in the back of the smallest car, and can be carried in a wheelbarrow.
  • Secure- the yurt can be fitted with a lockable wooden door. An entry cannot be gained even if the canvas is cut.
  • Weather proof- the yurt has proven itself in the harsh climate of central Asia for centuries. Warm in winter, with a relatively low roof, it is easy to heat. Insulating layers can be sandwiched between the frame and the cover. Cool in summer, the sides can be rolled up, or removed to admit a cooling breeze. Hot air rises out through the open Toono, and cool air is drawn in.
  • Inconspicuous- despite having ample headroom, the overall height of the structure is low, allowing it to be easily screened from unwanted attention.
  • Easy to erect- with a little practice the yurt can be erected or taken down in less than thirty minutes, even by one person.
  • Environmentally friendly- coppicing of hazel, ash and willow to provide poles, is good for the tree and woodland wildlife. All timbers are from the local community forest. The yurt is a low impact dwelling, causing no permanent damage to the land on which it is pitched. It can even be moved every few days to prevent the grass from being killed.
  • Long lasting- the yurt can stand outside for several years without harm, if used occasionally it should last indefinitely. In Mongolia the frame is expected to last a lifetime.