Photos of the Naadam Festival, Mongolia

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The Naadam Festival

The annual Naadam Festival is the most extraordinary celebration of Mongolian culture during summer in every town and village. It is an excellent 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. Furthermore, 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.

Officers marching
Mother and daughter
Awards and medals
Mongolian wrestling
Getting advice
Wrestling dance
Traditional costumes
“Devee” dance
Young horseman
Quad bike ride
Sitting on a camel
Traditional wrestling
Wrestling bout
Soldiers on horseback
Traditional soldiers
Shooting arrow
Carrying the banners
Posing for a photo
Boy playing Morin Khuur
Boys with Morin Khuur
Boys wrestling
Girl with Morin Khuur
Playing Morin Khuur
Morin Khuur player
Morin Khuur orchestra
Traditional dancers
Mongolian warriors
Mongolian troops
Troops on horseback
Mongolian costumes
Costume parade
Women's costumes
Morin Khuur orchestra
Playing the Morin Khuur
Children dancing
Large crowd
Presentation wrestling
Mongolian wrestlers
Wrestling dance
Traditional archery
Women archers
Taking aim
Boy jockeys
Mongolian wrestling
Wrestling finals
The winning team
The winner
Ready for a horse race
Mongolian archery
Morin Khuur
Mongolian wrestlers
Start wrestling
Mongolian contortion
Winning the match
Going for a horse race
Shooting an arrow
Careful aim
Horse race finish
Wrestling match
Wrestlers' dance

The word “Naadam” simply means “games” and revolves around what is called “the three manly games”: Mongolian wrestling, horse racing and archery. Despite 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 then 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.