Saihan Naadaarai! Happy Naadam!
Today (July 11) is the first of the annual three-day long celebration of Naadam. It is a sporting and cultural event that dates back to the 13th Century, a time when the three ‘manly sports’ of horse racing, wrestling, and archery were vital to Mongolia’s global dominance.
Although the national Naadam celebrations started today, county-wide and province-wide competitions and festivals have been occurring around the country since the beginning of July.
Having already attended the Naadam celebrations in Ulaanbaatar back in 2007, I was curious to see how it was celebrated on a more intimate scale.
Last week, I traveled to Uutgaal, a small county seat just 150 km from Ulaanbaatar, with fellow documentarians Nina and Taylor of the Vanishing Cultures Project and Mark of Open Road Movies. We spent two days watching horse races, wrestling matches, archery and the newly added game of Shagai (ankle bones). As the only foreigners and journalists at this Naadam, we were granted excellent access to the roughly 400 participants, organizers, and spectators.
Here are the first two in a series of four videos highlighting each of the four main events.
These videos were produced in partnership with the Vanishing Cultures Project.