I’ve been before and knew what to expect from the entertainment at the National Day of Mongolia. Last year it was a traditional throat singer Uuriintuya Duuren in a splendid national costume and this year a University student from Sydney B. Enkhbayar Budeekhuu who answered his country’s call for a performance for the invited at Gandel Hall at the National Gallery of Australia. His rendition of O Sole Mio nothing like any version you’re likely to hear in the streets, bars and concert halls of Italy, but extraordinary for a man who really isn’t sure how he learnt to do it. It just kind of happened.
Now for most that unique sound would be enough to frighten all animals with acute hearing, for us it was quite mesmerizing and more so when accompanied by a Horse Head Fiddle in front of those scenes of Mongolia that sweep across the steppes and deserts, into the mountains and onto the plains that are the great Mongol Empire of Ghengis Khan. What would he think of today’s Mongolia, with its vast mineral wealth and oil, resurrection of the great Khan as a symbol of the country since ditching communism in 1990 and finding its way in the 21st century with urban and nomadic living. Nomadic life means living with the have ‘ger’ will travel lifestyle (they’re yurts in parts of Asia) and taking the herd to the feed.
The mighty plains have three million mighty Mongol horses, a much prized possession in Mongol society and used for the epic long distance horse races the plains are famous for with the Mongolian Derby a testing 1000kms. Bring your ‘ger’ and camping gear for the start and finish of that one! And mid July is the time of the traditional Nadaam of Country festival where archery, wrestling and horse racing are contested.
Ulaanbaatoar as the capital- the coldest in the world with an average below freezing so don’t complain about Canberra - is a fast growing city that most describe as drab and grey but is attracting a growing tourist trade and probably a few horsemen from Snowy River keen to try the Derby. Its a bucket list kind of place and if you unlock the secret of throat singing then the plains and steppes might be the place to practice, on the back of a horse perhaps with its head into the wind. Otherwise you’re likely to frighten it, get thrown and have to walk all the way home. Those Mongol horses don’t stop for fallen riders.