A Nomadic Home
A ger is a circular dwellings of felt wrapped around a wood lattice frame. Gers provide nomadic families with year-round mobile protection from sun, wind and cold. The ger is central to Mongolian culture; in the Mongolian language, ger can refer not just to this dwelling, but to any home generally.
Approximately half of Mongolians live in gers, including almost all of Mongolia's nomadic families, who move with the seasons. In towns and cities across Mongolia, including in Ulaanbaatar, many sedentary families also live in gers, typically built on a fixed wooden or stone foundation.
The ger door always faces the south. The west side (right side when facing the door) of the ger is the men's area and often stores riding and hunting equipment. The stove opens to the east (left) side of the ger, the women's side. The back of the ger is a place for honored guests; the extreme back typically houses a small Buddhist shrine.
Building a Ger
After moving to a new pasture, a nomadic family puts their stove, cabinets and beds in place and builds their ger around the furniture. They put up the wood lattice frame, attach the roof poles and roof ring, wrap the felt around the frame and attach a white canvas cover. When moving to another pasture, the family takes down the ger and loads the pieces onto a camel, ox or truck.
To make the ger's felt, a family lays wool on the ground and beats it with sticks (and children jump on it). In the winter, a second layer of felt around the ger provides insulation while a dung, wood or coal fire in the central stove provides heat. Rolling up the felt around the ger's bottom allows cool breezes to pass through on hot summer days.
Mongolians continue to innovate with ger design. A hundred years ago, most gers had open fires instead of stoves. Today, families in Ulaanbaatar use coal briquettes and are installing more efficient stoves to help combat air pollution.