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10 Things to Know about Mongolia

Updated: Jul 24, 2023

By Scarlett Patton, Associate Country Leader, Mongolia

The annual camel festival

1. The “Land of the Eternal Blue Sky” boasts over 250 sunny days a year. It’s no wonder that Mongolian people are relaxed, calm, friendly and hospitable.

2. The annual camel festival includes camel polo, races, a contest for “Best-looking Couple on Camelback,” and a skill-challenging camel marathon.

3. One of the world’s most famous conquerors was Chinggis Khan (“Universal Ruler”), known for warfare but celebrated for peace. His warriors conquered the largest land empire in history, the Mongol Empire, which expanded to cover most of Eurasia from 1206-1368.

4. In the western city of Bayan Ulgii, hunting with trained eagles is a real thing!

5. The Gobi Desert in southern Mongolia, is known for its singing sand dunes, mountains, rare snow leopards, Bactrian camels, and dinosaur fossils.

6. It is estimated that there are about 50 livestock animals for every human in Mongolia.

7. The prevalent religion is Buddhism (51.7%), with non-religious (40.6%) being the second-largest group, followed by Islam (3.2%), Shamanism (2.5%), and Christianity (1.3 %).

8. True Mongolian barbecue is not a stir-fried dish! It is called “khorkhog” and is made by cooking pieces of sheep or goat meat inside a pressurized pot containing hot stones and water, heated over a blazing fire.

9. Every July, Mongolians celebrate the national Naadam festival displaying their strength, horsemanship, and marksmanship via the three manly sports: wrestling, horse racing, and archery.

10. Last, but not least, drum roll please… 2022 marks the year that REI expands into Mongolia!

Gary and Scarlett in wintry Mongolia

“сайн уу, сайн уу” (pronounced san-oh, san-oh), Hello. How are you? Greetings from Gary and Scarlett Patton, pioneers for REI in Mongolia. We serve as English teachers at the Mongolian National University of Medical Sciences (MNUMS) in Darkhan province of northern Mongolia. This spring semester we are tutoring the dean of the university, his top four advisors, and many of the lecturers and researchers at the medical university.

As they gain confidence speaking English, these leaders can more easily interact at the international level, thus improving their opportunities to share research and modernize healthcare in Mongolia. For example, in May, our university will host an international medical conference on Research & Practice, with all the presentations being given in English.

The dean and faculty of Mongolian National University of Medical Sciences in Darkhan wearing their traditional deels, celebrating Tsagaan Sar (White Month), Lunar New Year

There are multiple opportunities to serve here. The over-grazing of sheep, goats, cattle, Bactrian camels, and horses contributes to the steppe’s desertification, a problem for Mongolia. We need specialists to study the land degradation issues and share ideas by interacting side-by-side with local herders. We already have a relationship with a like-minded couple who operate a meat supply company and aim to expand their business model throughout Mongolia, teaching best practices and innovative methodology, while creating new jobs with the intent to subsidize the incomes of fellowship leaders.

Furthermore, relationships have been established and doors have opened to serve groups such as the Mongolian military, police and first responders, hospitals, as well as prison ministry and a potential youth camp. The need is plentiful; the workers are few. So, ask yourself, “How could I pioneer my skills or resources to make an impact in Mongolia?”

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