Naadam – the festival of manly sports
Naadam is an annual festival in Mongolia – the biggest festivity of the year. The reason is that winter festivities like New Year fall when most nomadic communities are cut-off by the heavy snow that closes-down all of rural Mongolia for the winter months – so family get-togethers are impossible. So when mid-summer comes, the great competition of Naadam takes places. Naadam consisted originally of many Buddhist ceremonies and dances, but these were banned during the Communist era – some element of them has been reintroduced into the present-day Naadam. The main activities, though, are archery, wrestling, and horse-racing – sports in which there is fierce competition and great local national interest. Alongside this there are more low-key events that happen alongside. What needs mentioning, however, is that the organisation of Naadam isn’t always, well, entirely smooth. It’s even happened that the horse-racing was rescheduled earlier in the day (“hot weather – bad for horses”) and when the Presidential motorcade arrived for the start, it had actually all finished. So bring a sense of humour and a flexible attitude when you come to Naadam, and you’ll enjoy it in all its strange and exotic glory.