Mongolia... cultural diversity, amazing people and fantastic photo opportunities = an unforgetable experience

Did you know that Genghis Khan and the Mongols were the dominant force that shaped Eurasia and consequently the modern world? Not for what they destroyed - though they wrought much destruction all over the continent - but for what they built.

They came close to uniting Eurasia into a world empire, and in so doing they spread throughout it technologies like paper, gunpowder, paper money, or the compass - and pants. They revolutionized warfare. More lastingly, in the words of Jack Weatherford in his book, Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World:  '...they also created the nucleus of a universal culture and world system. (...) With the emphasis on free commerce, open communication, shared knowledge, secular politics, religious coexistence, international law, and diplomatic immunity.

Now, a culture that once introduced the foundation of our current way of thinking and ruled much of the world, by a man that we can track to 5% of the global population, now in jeopardy of losing part if its ancient heritage and ancient cultural identity by the very ideological path they helped send the world down a thousand years ago...

Mongolia has always been known for its strong nomadic traditions, but life has recently become more urbanized for many citizens in this sparsely populated country. As generations come to maturity, capitalism has replaced communism, showing the younger generation that an education and an urban environment could mean, to what they perceive, as a means to a better life.

Almost 50% of the population now live in or near an urban center, while the other 50% live a semi-nomadic lifestyle in the countryside. Despite this change in lifestyle, the rich nomadic heritage remains strong for a time being, and traditional Mongol songs, dance, stories and clothing are still celebrated, especially during festivals and national holidays.

It is these festivals and national holidays that bring me to Mongolia year after year. Since 2012 I have photographed both the Naadam Festival or the Golden Eagle Festival multiple times. I have now been to Mongolia six times with six more planned over the next year and a half.

The Naadam Festival - Naadam is the most famous, interesting festival and national holiday of Mongolia attracts worldwide attention. Origin of the festival dates back to the great warriors’ period or great Genghis Khaan’s period of the 13th century. Naadam means “Festival or feast of sports”. As well as, the festival is locally termed“Eriin Gurvan Naadam” means “Three manly sports”. The three sports are: Horse racing, wrestling and archery.

Ancient times, the Mongolian great kings and military generals used to train their warriors and the warriors’ main battle tool horses while competing and feasting those three manly traditional sports have been generating for centuries and being enriched by more traditional sports and games. During the festival, Mongolians dress in colourful and distinctive traditional clothes and ride their most beautiful horses. Official festival celebration takes place through the country between 11 and 13th July annually.  Particularly, the Naadam celebration in Ulaanbaatar, a capital of Mongolia is the most marvelous and involves wider range.

There are 21 provinces and their 333 soums (small administrative divisions) in Mongolia celebrate their own festivals. Even though, some of the administrative units celebrate their festival on different dates depends on special celebrity occasions or anniversaries may held certain periods. As well as, celebrating the festival on different dates than the big festival celebrated in Ulaanbaatar allows their local wrestlers, archers and race horses to take part in big competition and celebration. Annually, thousands of tourists head to Mongolia to attend this breathtaking event except for hundreds of journalists broadcasting the celebration worldwide.

Come and see for yourself... the following is a list of my next trips to Mongolia to see the Naadam Festival

July 2017 with Randy Wilson Limited Spaces Left

July 2018… the trip to Naadam and the nomadic Tsaatan in the summer of 2018 has not been announced yet, but will be soon. Contact me if you would like information on dates and approximate pricing.

The Golden Eagle Festival - The Eagle festival, or Golden Eagle festival (Бүргэдийн наадам/ бүркіт той), is an annual traditional festival held in Bayan-Ölgii aimag, Mongolia. In the eagle festival, Kazakh eagle hunters (Burkitshi) celebrate their heritage and compete to catch small animals such as foxes and hares with specially trained golden eagles, showing off the skills both of the birds and their trainers. Prizes are awarded for speed, agility and accuracy, as well as for the best traditional Kazakh dress, and more.

The Eagle Festival is held during the first weekend in October, run by the Mongolian Eagle Hunter's Association. Dark, rocky mountainous terrain forms the backdrop to the festivities which incorporate an opening ceremony, parade, cultural exhibitions, demonstrations and handcrafts in the center of town of Ölgii followed by sporting activities and competitions 4 km out towards the mountains. Dressed in full eagle hunting regalia and mounted on groomed decorated horses, the entrants compete for the awards of Best Turned Out Eagle and Owner; Best Eagle at Hunting Prey and Best Eagle at Locating Its Owner from a Distance. Other sporting activities include horse racing, archery and the highly entertaining Bushkashi - goatskin tug of war on horseback.

If you want to learn more about the Golden Eagle hunters, here is a list of the trips I am making in the coming years.

October of 2016 … Trip is Now Sold Out

July 2017 … 14 day expedition to Kazakh Eagle hunters and Tsaatan nomads… This Trip Is Now Sold Out

July 2017 Golden Eagles with Shayne McGuire -

Golden Eagle festival in October of 2017 with Andy Williams … Trip is Now Sold Out

Golden Eagle Festival in October of 2018 with Jeff Wendorff