The white round tents (gers) dotting the vast Mongolian landscape make perfect houses and are excellent landmarks at dark. The gers can be put up and dismantled in no time, come in different sizes, and contain everything that is needed for a nomadic and a sedentary life. During my two weeks at Stepperiders, I slept in a ger, ate in a ger, helped to put up two gers, and obtained detailed explanations on how to construct a ger and what to do and not to do in a ger. On our riding tours we visited several gers, were welcomed into the homes of the farmers and were offered fresh delicious yoghurt, hot milk tea, bread, special dried cheese and – snuff. The yoghurt and the milk tea were my favorites, especially after a long riding tour with loads of sun and sand, and the snuff was not bad at all!
So, here comes a detailed description on how to build your own ger, and what to do and not do in a Mongolian ger. Don’t forget to watch the slide show for more details :)!
The numbers of crosshatched frames or lattices, which are used to build the round shape of the ger, determine its size. A simple herdsman’s ger may consist of four to five lattices, while for example a queen’s ger may be made of six to eight lattices, or even more. Depending on taste and money one can choose among the most colorful painted, delicately carved, or simple shaped columns, poles and doors for one’s ger, or one can go for a second-hand ger. Everything is available and all can be purchased as one package (containing all that is needed) on UB’s Black Market.
A ger can be put up everywhere in the countryside in Mongolia. Most important is however to choose a good place for it, and to even out the ground beforehand if necessary, so that the ger stands on even ground. One may place a round wooden floor on the ground, or just build the ger directly on the soil. The first step is to set up the door (facing south) and to attach the first lattices to the right and left of the door with ropes, all other lattices are then added and fastened to each other to form the round shape of the ger. Additional ropes all around the structure provide further stability. Next, the sky window is attached to the two columns, which make up the center of the ger, and then sky window and columns are raised to form the uppermost part of the roof. The two columns are positioned in the middle of the ger and in line with the door.
Now the numerous poles are placed between the sky window and the cross- hatched lattice and these form the actual roof of the ger. The sky window has small carvings into which the pointed part of the poles is placed, while the other end of the poles rests on the lattice and is tightened with a string so that it won’t fall off.
Sheep wool or camel wool felts are then placed on top of the lattice and on top of the poles, tightened with ropes, and covered by plastic and cotton or canvas. Ropes are tied all around to keep plastic, and cotton/canvas in place. Finally a rope with a heavy load attached is tied to the sky window to prevent the ger from being blown away. Additional red ropes nicely placed below the poles inside the ger and possibly a sacred scarf hanging from the sky window would be good to keep the good fortune alive.
The two center columns divide the space of a ger into the left part, which is the man’s space and the right part, which is the woman’s space. The stove is placed just in front of the two columns, and kitchen utensils are stored on the right side, and stuff used for the horses on the left side. The space opposite to the door is reserved for the altar, precious belongings, photographs, etc. Visitors are usually seated to the left, unless they are really important visitors. In the latter case they are placed opposite of the door, where normally the man of the household sits and entertains his guests.
Some simple rules apply when entering a ger. #1 – never step on the doorstep, because this would mean that you step on the owner’s neck. #2 – always enter a ger with your right leg first. #3 – never walk between the two columns, because this would mean that the owners of the ger will divorce. #4 – always walk to the left side when you enter the ger.