I wanted to go on a trip that was off the beaten path and so I picked Mongolia. I knew it was going to be quite an effort to get there so I wanted to make the most of it. I timed my trip to coincide with the Naadam Festival which is three day national festival that takes place every July.
Naadam celebrates the Mongolian love of three sports that are rooted in the nomadic culture - wrestling, horseback riding and archery.
To participate in Naadam festivities, men and women required to dress in traditional Mongolian costume so all around the sports stadium, you get wonderful views of Mongolians dressed in their finest silk brocades and furs. Wool caps and leather boots top off the traditional national costume.
Even the archers were beautifully dressed. No numbered uniforms here!
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The Horsemen and the Standards
The Naadam Festival, that takes place every July in Ulan Bator, Mongolia, is full of tradition and pomp and circumstance. The three-day festival kicks off with an opening ceremony that begins with a contingent of thirty horsemen riding into the National Sport Stadium. As they enter, the crowd begins to roar and in seconds, the thundering sound of national pride floods the stadium.
The horsemen are dressed in ceremonial military uniforms; the red and blue colors are those of the Mongolian flag. Silver helmets complete the look.
Nine of the riders carry banners made from horsetail hair. Collectively, the banners are known as the ceremonial State White Standards (or Tug Sulde) which symbolize Mongolian unity, freedom, power, justice and peace.
The State White Standards harkens back to 1206 when Chinggis Khan established their use for ceremony. Back then, there were only two banners. Today, there are nine representing Chinggis Khan and his eight generals who were in command during his reign.
The State White Standards are housed in the Government House and are only displayed on three state occasions - the investiture of a new government, the first speech of a new President, and for the Naadam Festival.
Watching the horsemen ride in to the stadium, hearing the crowd roar and feeling the electricity in the air, I couldn’t help but get swept up by the moment! I will never ever forget this travel experience!