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kottke.org posts about Mongolia

A trip to the vast expanse of Mongolia

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 19, 2017

Kevin Kelly Mongolia

Fulfilling a long-held dream, Kevin Kelly recently visited Mongolia and returned with dozens of photos of the country’s people and places.

40 years ago I had a vivid dream of flying into Mongolia, soaring over bare winter trees, but that vision did not come to pass. The parts of Mongolia I saw were much like my expectation: treeless to the horizon. There is much grass in Mongolia. Imagine a lawn 1,000 kilometers wide. It is hard to appreciate the vastness of Mongolia: for as far as you can see, no roads, no fences, no wires, just grass, rock, sky. And the occasional shepherd on a pony, happy to chat.

Most of the 3 million inhabitants live in the handful of towns and one capital city. The rest are distributed sparsely onto the grass, which they share with millions of herding animals: sheep, goats, cows, horses, yaks and camels. A large percent of rural Mongolians are nomadic herders, and proud of their nomadism. A few of them in the far west, where the culture and language is Kazak, they use eagles to hunt game and fur.

The young eagle hunters of Mongolia

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 15, 2014

Asher Svidensky’s photographs from Mongolia of apprentice eagle hunters are fantastic. (FYI, they hunt with eagles, not for them.) Among Svidensky’s subjects is a 13-year-old girl, Ashol Pan:

Mongolia Eagle Hunters

At the end of the photographing session, I sat down with her father and the translator to say my goodbyes, and I asked him this:

“How did it feel watching your daughter dressed in Kazakh uniform, on a mountain top, sending the eagle off and calling it back again?”

“Very good”

“And honestly… would you have considered truly training her? Would she become Mongolia’s first ever female eagle huntress?”

I expected a straightforward “No” or a joking “Maybe”, but after a short pause he replied:

“Up until two years ago my eldest son was the successor of the eagle hunting tradition in our family. Alas, two years ago he was drafted to the army, and he’s now an officer, so he probably won’t be back with the tradition. It’s been a while since I started thinking about training her instead of him, but I wouldn’t dare do it unless she asks me to do it, and if she will? Next year you will come to the eagle festival and see her riding with the eagle in my place.”

From the father’s answer I realized that the idea of women’s participation in keeping the tradition is a possible future, but just like many other aspect of Mongolian life, it’s an option which women will need to take on by themselves.

(via @rebeccablood)