Nearly all Mongolian herders live in white gers (felt-lined tents, yurt in Russian), a characteristic sight throughout Mongolia. Each family has their own ger. Tourism companies are adapting gers as comfortable accommodations in tourist camps.
A ger is a herder’s most important possession. When a couple gets married the family builds or buys them a new ger. This family has bought the lattice work, but they are making the felt covering themselves.
Sewing the felt for a ger is a family affair.
Gers are easy to put up. The lattice work forms the wall, and supports the long roof poles, which come together at the central ring. The door always points to the south.
Layers of felt are draped over the frame, and covered with white cotton. Several ropes hold everything together. In winter more layers of felt are added for warmth, while in summer the bottom of the covers may be turned up for extra ventilation. A simple stove heats the ger in winter.
Just because they live in a ger, doesn’t mean that herders don’t have any modern conveniences. Some have a windmill generator, and even a satellite dish to beam TV directly into their ger in the middle of the Gobi desert!
It takes no more than an hour to pack a ger and the belongings inside into a truck or onto a camel train. It usually takes one truck or six camels to move a family’s ger and belongings.
Many tourists want to stay in gers in the countryside, and so tour companies are catering to this popular demand by setting up ger camps with simple but adequate facilities.
Even in towns and cities many people still live in gers. In many cases they live in a regular house in summer, but move to a ger in winter, as they are easier to heat. Usually they build a fence around the yard, in which people may have some livestock or even a garden.
they may look small from the outside, but gers can easily accomodate a large party! The ger is heated by a stove standing in the center, fueled by firewood or animal dung. Seating arrangements in gers are important – the most honoured guests sit at the top left end of the ger, farthest from the door, and least important ones along the left side closer to the door. Family members usually sit on the right side of the ger. The furniture is always arranged in the same way: kitchen to the right of the door, altar in the back, and beds to the left and right of the altar.