There are no fast food restaurants in Ulan Batar.
Our driver, a native Mongolian, took us to what he said was the original Mongolian Barbecue. I looked at the menu, most of which I didn’t understand. Some of the dishes had English translations next to the Mongolian. My choices, among many others:
Baked Sheep Head
Fried Ox Tongue
Horse Meat Assortments
Mongolian Khuushuur stuffed with mutton
We ordered an assortment of dishes to share. When they brought the baked sheep head, our Mongolian friend looked rather anxious. He waited for me to go first. I wasn’t sure I was hungry anymore. The sheep was sitting in the serving tray staring at me–literally.
“Do you want the eyes?” He asked. “Or the brain?”
“No thanks. It’s all yours.”
With gratitude and zeal, our friend speared the eyeballs from the sheep. Then, he lifted the skull from the sheep’s head and scooped out the brains.
I went for the Khuushuur. It seemed safest.
As we ate, and shared stories, I began to forget our differences. I began to relax and enjoy a culture I knew so very little about. I began to appreciate the food which had a very different, yet pleasing taste–that is–until I looked–again–at the eyeless sheep staring back at me.
The real thing, staring up at me.
Mongolia is known as the Land of Blue Skies; however, with an average annual temperature 27˚ƒ, the skies are frequently much more ominous in Ulan Batar, the world’s coldest capital city.
With a population of over one-million, Ulan Batar, or UlaanBataar, is the largest city and capital of Mongolia.
Where cars are rare and fuel is expensive, walking is the predominant means of transportation.
No longer nomadic, many Mongolians still prefer the comfort of the yurt, along with alternative housing.
Outside of the main city of Ulan Batar, running water and sanitation facilities don’t exist. Outhouses are bathrooms for many Mongolians.
Clean water and sanitation are key tenants of modern life. For many Mongolians, it requires constant daily effort to haul water for critical needs.
In spite of the abundance of garbage and lack of sanitation, this little stream is the primary water source for a large community outside of Ulan Batar.
Two boys play soccer near the family yurt, just outside of Ulan Batar.
Without baskets, and old basketball makes for a pretty good soccer ball.
On the steppes outside of Ulan Batar, boys love to play ball.
Each spring many Mongolia yurt dwellers pack up their home and move to greener pastures. Apparently, it helps to take the bus.
Even on a sunny day, cuddling for warmth is a good idea in Mongolia.
Still dressed in her traditional costume, this Mongolian grandmother protects her little grand daughter outside the family yurt.
Life isn’t easy when you’re small, in Mongolia.
The Lines and wrinkles hint at struggles and adversity; yet, the smile reveals her love for life in Mongolia.
The ceiling in the average yurt is just over 6 feet high. With a hole in the center to vent the wood burning stove, and a thick canvas flap which can be pulled back to let in the sun, the yurt is surprisingly comfortable.
No running water; but a generator for electricity supplies the power for entertainment.
The bucket with spigot above the wash basin is the water supply for hand washing and showering.
This sweet woman was baking bread in her wood stove when we arrived. It was delicious.
A wood burning stove for heating and cooking dominates the circular yurt one-room living room, dining room, bedroom, playroom.
Gathering wood for the stove occupies time during the warm months, in preparation for the minus 40 degree fahrenheit winter temperatures outside the yurt during winter.
Thick carpets and warm blankets make for ideal napping conditions when you’re small.
It’s a big wide world outside the yurt near Ulan Bataar.
Rickety makeshift fences separate squatter’s lands while dirt roads between yurts also double as trash dumps.
In the city, you can find great bargains on beautiful products. I purchased a beautiful cashmere scarf for my wife.