Mongolian Camels’ Horns

 

The Camels Look Up After Drinking
A couple of Mongolian camels looking for the goat to come and return the horns

When Mongolian camels (OK, so they are Bactrian camels but in Mongolia, they are Mongolian ones) drink they inevitably slurp great quantities of water down, then look up.

Puujee was telling me that the reason for this comes from many many years ago. Camels had horns in the past and goats did not. One day the goat wanted some horns for a while. So he asked the camel if he could borrow his horns. The camel was wary and said that he wasn’t sure but the goat kept insisting. The goat promised to have the horns back to the camel later that day.

The camel relented and lent his horns to the goat. The goat went off with the horns.

Later that day the camel was having a drink and wondering when the goat was going to come back with his horns. He then looked up and around to see if he could see the goat coming. He drank some more and looked some more but still the goat did not come.

To this day, the camel looks up after drinking to see if he can see the goat coming with his horns. To this day, the goat has horns and the camel does not.

And, in the time I spent in the Gobi, I never saw a camel and a goat drinking water together either.

The Tale of the Four Mountains, Umnugobi Aimag

In Umnugobi Aimag, there are four mountains. King Mountain (Noyon uul), Queen Mountain (Khatan uul), Prince Mountain (Khuu uul) and a mountain named after the member of court that assists the King, his servant, and organises the King’s domain. In Mongolian this person is known as the Tushmel and so that mountain is called Tushmel uul. Noyon uul is near Noyon Soum in that Aimag. One day, a long time ago, the mountains were close. Noyon uul and Khatan uul then argued and fought. They argued so hard that Noyon uul decided to move to the east whilst Khatan uul moved to the west. As part of this argument, Khatan uul, the Queen Mountain, kicked a rock mirror at Noyon uul, the King Mountain. Noyon uul kicked a table in his anger.

So now in Noyon Soum we find Khatan uul to the north west and Noyon uul to the south east. In front of Khatan uul is a mountain range that looks like a line of soldiers, protecting the queen. Khuu uul and I are behind Noyon uul, with the table rock between them and Noyon uul.

The mirror rock that the Queen Mountain threw was of a dark polished stone, When you looked on one side of it, you could see Khatan uul reflected in it. Look in the other side and you could see Noyon uul reflected in it. It was a beautiful rock.

In 1932 the Russians came into this area and shot the Mirror Rock. No one is quite sure why, other than it was perhaps because the rock was beautiful. The result of this vandalism was that now the rock is destroyed.

Noyon uul was so named as the rocks on the top of this mountain resemble the type of cap that the old rulers of Mongolia wore. Visitors can still travel to Noyon uul, Khatan uul, Khuu uul and Tushmel uul and see the remains of the mirror rock.

Umnugobi Aimag is the southern most Aimag in Mongolia and borders with China. It is fairly easy to reach from Ulaanbaatar.

Nine Fish Cleansing

The area near where we stopped with the fierce mosquitoesI was out with my favourite Mongolian family this weekend. Saturday we were west of the City of Ulaanbaatar again, this time parked by a river. The trip over the bridge was amazing, as was the ferocity of the mosquitoes. I will go back and take photos of that bridge in the future. However, whilst this was a fun part to the weekend, it was not the best part. Sunday we went to Hotel Mongolia. I had promised to buy my favourite Mongolian family lunch as it was a birthday weekend for one of the family members. We did. Hotel Mongolia has become famous here for its importing tons of sand – about US $10,000 worth I believe, which in Mongolia is a lot of grains of sand. They have placed this sand near the river and hold beach parties there.

I should also note that the Hotel Mongolia does the best Chinese food I have eaten in Ulaanbaatar so far.

This, however, also was not the highlight of the weekend. The highlight was later when we went and parked by the river. Now I have been told that what follows is not an old Mongolian custom. When I asked, however, how my host had heard about it, she noted that it was some old Mongolians who had told her. OK, so not a custom. What was this though? Well, apparently swallowing 9 small river fish, alive, is good for the stomach.

Fish were caught, counted and set in a glass with some clean drinking water. They were then duly swallowed. When offered, Thomo backed away (some may say in a cowardly fashion) and fell back on my three rules of eating – namely:

  1. Dead
  2. Cooked
  3. Should never have connected the mouth to the bum of any animal.

These failed on all three.

Still, my companion was fine at dinner later that night although apparently not terribly hungry. 🙂

Late Breaking Addition: The ever faithful aide confidante, Baggy, noted to me over lunch today that this tale was, in fact, correct. My favourite Mongolian family, however, had missed one important part of the recipe. Before drinking the fish, one should drink 1 to 2 litres of fresh water first, so that the fish would survive long enough in the stomach to provide the benefit. He also noted that you could feel them cleaning the stomach walls (this I am not so sure about but hey, coming from Baggy, the ever faithful aide confidante, who am I to doubt?).

So, I guess this was a case of one member of my favourite Mongolian family being an expert short term planner (catch the fish and swallow them) but not so good at long term planning (now that I have caught and swallowed them, how do I keep them alive long enough for them to provide some benefit?). 😀