The annual Naadam Festival is the greatest celebration of Mongolian culture, and is held during summer in every town and village. It is a great opportunity for people to show off their traditional dress, the "deel", the heavy cloak worn by both men and women, with a large silk belt. The largest Naadam is held during the National Holiday from 11 – 13 July in Ulaanbaatar, but in the smaller events held in the outlying towns it is possible to get closer to the action. There are colourful parades, traditional dances and performances of traditional music.
The word "Naadam" simply means "games" and revolves around what is called "the three manly games": Mongolian wrestling, horse racing and archery. In spite of the name, women now also participate in archery and girls in horse racing. But not in wrestling: the wrestlers wear an open-fronted red or blue jacket, called "jodag"; the story goes that long ago a wrestler defeated all others and after that ripped open the jodag, revealing her breasts: it was a woman. Since then, the wrestler's chest must be seen.
The horse races are held on a track of around 10 kilometres long and the jockeys are always young boys (and sometimes girls), relatives of the owner's horses; they can ride at an early age. In the archery competitions the archers, using a bow made of layered horn, bark and wood and arrows from willows with bird-of-prey feathers, shoot at targets on a wall.
These photos are from the Naadam Festivals in Darkhan, Choibalsan and a "mini-Naadam" held for tourists at Guru Camp in Gorkhi-Terelj National Park near Ulaanbaatar.