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In Pictures: Mongolia's Biggest National Festival


ULAANBAATAR, Mongolia- It has been a week of celebration as Mongolians across this country took part in the biggest national holiday festival known as Nadaam.

Held each year between July 10-13, the Naadam festival is a thrilling three-day sporting affair filled with concerts, games, music and a host of cultural and traditional activities.

Mongolians have celebrated Nadaam for centuries since the days of Genghis Khan, the founder of the Mongolian Empire.

Naadam means “festival or feast of sports” and features the “three manly sports” of wrestling...

horse racing...

...and archery.

The games and celebrations are held throughout Mongolia's 21 provinces. 

The Naadam festivities in Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia, is by far the biggest and most popular.

This week, Mongolia's new president Khaltmaa Battulga (wearing grey hat and traditional Mongolian outfit), launched the start of the traditional Naadam festival at the Central Stadium.

Thousands of Mongolians from all over the country packed the stadium to watch a colorful display of their nation's diverse culture and traditions.

Events at the stadium included honor guards in uniform riding on horseback carrying Mongolia's Nine White Banners, which are symbols of peace.

The holiday extravaganza is also a major tourism draw attracting thousands of foreigners each year to witness the spectacle.

Mongolians will tell you the best way to experience their country's rich history and culture is to visit during the centuries-old festival.

This biggest event on the yearly calendar also marks the anniversary of the 1921 revolution, when Mongolian and Russian armies drove out Chinese forces leading to independence.

This year also commemorates the 2226th anniversary of the Mongolian statehood and the 811th anniversary of the Great Mongol Empire.

Mongolia is home to around three million people, many of whom lead a nomadic lifestyle. Naadam is an opportunity for friends and family to come together to celebrate.

It is also a time to honor the common people-- nomadic herders who often ride into town for the special occasion.

Wearing Mongolian traditional costumes has become a customary event at the festivities.

The Mongolian traditional costume consists of a deel, a hat, boots, and accessories.

For Mongolian men, their outfits are traditionally made of thick cotton or wool.

Mongolian women tend to wear more luxurious costumes, with silk prints and richly decorated jewels.

Mongolia has 32 different tribes and each group has their own unique patterns and colors.

Hats also have their special place in Mongolian traditional fashion.

The head wear come in different shapes and sizes;

There are hats for the young and old...

...summer and winter...

...holidays and ceremonies.

And then there are just everyday hats, some short others long, very long!

Away from all the pageantry, as scores of men compete for the national championship title in wrestling and archery at the Central Stadium, hundreds of others are racing horses about an hour’s drive outside the capital city.

Here in open fields, riders race in six categories according to the age of the horses, starting from two-years-old horses to fully-grown horses and stallions.

Horses competing in the races are trained for at least a month before the festival.

The two-year old horses race a distance of about 9 miles. The fully-grown horses race 18 miles.

And the majority of the jockeys are young, aged 5 to 13 and often race without saddles so they can be as light and therefore as fast as possible!

Mongolian people have loved horse racing since time immemorial.

This year was no different, as some 200,000 horses raced across Mongolia's 21 provinces drawing tens of thousands of spectators.

By the way, there are more horses than humans in Mongolia!

Mongolia is a landlocked country in northeast Asia and is one of the world’s most sparsely populated countries. Bordering China to the south and Russia to the north, Mongolia is the 18th largest country on Earth.

Mongolia is the birthplace of the great warrior Genghis Khan who founded the single, largest empire in history.

This week, Mongolians gathered in city and town squares, and in the countryside to celebrate their independence with a spectacular display of the color, culture and traditions that have long come to reflect the rich history of Mongolia.

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