Discovering a Country through its Festival: The Naadam Festival, Mongolia
When traveling to a foreign nation, or even exploring the US, a traveler must always consider the best way to explore the country’s history and culture. Taking the time to go to a festival is perfect for those who want more than the photo-op tourist spots. A festival, whether a music festival or national event, is a fun and exciting way to get beneath the surface and learn about the culture and lifestyle of the country. The Naadam Festival in Mongolia is a national festival that combines the county’s equine culture with traditional games along with food and music.
Discover Mongolia reported that the three sports played over the two-day festival are horse racing, wrestling, and archery. The site writes: “this is the best time to see the Mongolian people and soak up the party atmosphere.” The festival is so important to Mongolian culture that in 2010 it was put on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity of UNESCO. Competitors in the sports wear traditional Mongolian garments that haven’t changed in centuries.
Alongside the traditional sports the UNESCO site states the festival includes “oral traditions, performing arts, national cuisine, craftsmanship, and cultural forms such as long song.” There is no better place to get a sense of Mongolia’s people than the Naadam Festival. Horse riding and racing is an integral part of Mongolia’s culture and forms the center of Naadam’s entertainment. Unlike racing in countries such as the US and UK, the race takes place over a long distance and is much more like a cross-country event than track racing. An interesting fact is that children train to be jockeys when they are young and take part in the race at a much earlier age than in the West. The Naadam Festival has existed for centuries, with some sources claiming it began as far back as the 13th Century, and its legacy is a vital part of the Mongolia’s identity.
Exploring a nation’s equine culture is a great way to discover a country. Most equine events are accompanied with a festival that celebrates the country’s cultural peculiarities. For example, Mike Norman, a journalist who writes articles on the Grand National for Betfair Horse Racing describes the race as “one of the biggest events in the sporting calendar.” It’s not only one of the country’s most prestigious races but it is also a great way to experience Britain’s sporting heritage through the surrounding events that accompany the races. Likewise the Kentucky Derby in the US is the oldest continuous race in America making it, like the Naadam Festival for Mongolia and the Grand National for the UK, an essential stop for visitors wanting to get a deeper sense of American history.
Like festivals in the US, the Naadam Festival is the ideal place to meet new people whether it is from the local communities or even fellow travelers. The festival is held during July 10-12 every year and can be integrated into a tour of the area. For those who take chance and seek out the country’s festivals it can be one of the most rewarding travel experiences.
FestPop Editorial Team