25 interesting facts about Mongolia

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From ancient nomadic culture to one of the world’s greatest empires, these are the most interesting facts about Mongolia

A traditional Mongolian yurt (ger)
Several interesting facts about Mongolia stem from its nomadic culture (Shutterstock)

Fast facts

Official name: Mongolia
Capital city: Ulaanbaatar
Population: 3,168,026
Area: 1,564,116 sq km
Major languages: Mongolian, Turkic, Russian
Time zone: UTC+7/+8 (Hovd Time/Ulaanbaatar Time)
(Source: CIA World Fact Book)

Interesting facts about Mongolia

1. Mongolia is a landlocked country in Asia. A landlocked country is completely surrounded by land with no access to the sea. There are currently 45 such countries and five partially recognised states.
(Source: CIA World FactbookThe Economist)

2. The most famous Mongolian is Genghis Khan. Between 1206 and 1263 he united the Mongol tribes and launched a campaign of conquest.
(Source: BBC News)

3. He founded the Mongol Empire (later known as the Golden Horde) which, at its peak, controlled up to 12 million sq miles (31,079,857 sq km). It was the largest contiguous territory in history and is the second-largest kingdom of all time.
(Source: National Geographic)

4. Following the collapse of the Golden Horde. Mongolia was ruled by the Qing dynasty of China from 1636 until 1911.
(Source: BBC News)

5. For much of the 20th century, Mongolia was under strict Soviet influence. It wasn’t until 1990, following the collapse of the USSR, that the country abandoned its Soviet-style one-party system.
(Source: BBC News)

World's largest horse statue
The world’s largest horse statue with Genghis Khan (Shutterstock)

6. The world’s largest equestrian statue is in Mongolia. Measuring 40m (131ft), the statue features Genghis Khan riding a horse on top of a coliseum of 36 columns.
(Source: Time Magazine)

7. The largest desert in Asia, the Gobi Desert, covers part of Mongolia. In Mongolian, gobi means ‘waterless place’.
(Source: USA Today, Britannica)

8. Mongolian horsemen are alleged to have invented ice cream. They used to take cream in containers made from animal intestines for supplies during long journeys across the Gobi desert in winter. When they galloped, the cream was vigorously shaken, while it simultaneously froze in the sub-zero temperatures.
(Source: Chris Clarke (2004) The Science of Ice Cream. Royal Society of Chemistry: Cambridge)

9. Mongolia is home to the endangered snow leopard. Between 13–22% of the estimated global snow leopard population reside in Mongolia.
(Source: WWF)

10. Mongolia is also home to the two-humped Bactrian camel. As the only truly wild camel in the world, herds survive in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia and China.
(Source: National Geographic)

The two-humped Bactrian camel
The two-humped Bactrian camel (Shutterstock)

11. Every October an eagle-hunting festival takes place in Mongolia. During the Ölgii’s Eagle Festival, or ‘Golden Eagle Festival’, various competitions and displays are staged over a weekend.
(Source: Daily Mail , The Guardian)

12. Nomadic herding is a way of life for over a third of Mongolians. However, in recent years 600,000 people have migrated from the steppe to the capital city, Ulaanbaatar.
(Source: The Guardian)

13. This is because Mongolia is affected by climate change more than many other nations. Over the last 70 years, the average temperature in Mongolia has risen by 2.07°C, compared to the average global increase of 0.85°C over the past 100 years. This has taken a terrible toll on livestock with millions of animals dying.
(Source: The Guardian)

14. The world’s longest horse race is in Mongolia. The Mongol Derby is raced 1,000km across the vast Mongolian Steppe following Ghengis Khan’s ancient postal system route.
(Source: BBC News)

15. Every year the Naadam Festival is held in Mongolia. Nadaam means ‘games’ and the traditional festival focuses on “three manly sports” of wrestling, horseracing and archery. However, it is also a celebration where friends and family have fun, eat and drink together.
(Source: Nadaam Festival, Lonely Planet)

The Nadaam festival in Mongolia
The Nadaam Festival in Mongolia (Shutterstock)

16. Known as airag, fermented mare’s (horse) milk is Mongolia’s national drink. It has an alcohol content of around 3%.
(Source: Lonely Planet)

17. Mongolia is the least densely populated country in the world with only two people per sq km. Only Greenland (an autonomous territory within Denmark) has fewer.
(Source: World Bank)

18. In 1981, Mongolia sent Jügderdemidiin Gürragchaa, the country’s first cosmonaut, into space aboard a Soviet spacecraft. He spent several days in orbit.
(Source: Britannica)

19. Mongolia did not win an Olympic Gold medal until the 2008 Beijing Olympics in China. Naidangiin Tüvshinbayar won gold in the half-heavyweight men’s judo event.
(Source: International Olympic Committee)

20. The Mongolian flag consists of equal bars of red-blue-red, symbolising communism and Mongolian nationalism. It also features the soyombo, a traditional emblem consisting of a flame, sun, moon, yin-yang, triangles and bars. It represents the philosophical principles of Mongolian culture and religion.
(Source: Britannica)

Mongolian flag
The Mongolian flag (Shutterstock)

21. Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia’s capital and largest city means ‘Red Hero’.
(Source: Britannica)

22. At 1,528m Mongolia has one of the world’s highest average elevations – 13th overall.
(Source: The Telegraph)

23. Many Mongolians still live in traditional tents known as gers (yurts). The door of yurts should always face to the south as a yurt’s most sacred space is to the north.
(Source: National Geographic)

24. The Mongolian traditional art of Khöömei or ‘throat singing’ involves mimicking sounds of nature by simultaneously emitting two distinct vocal sounds along with a continuous drone.
(Source: UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage)

25. The last of our interesting facts about Mongolia is how the government has tried to encourage population growth by awarding the honour of ‘First Order of Glorious Motherhood’ to women who bear six children or more.
(Source: The Guardian)