The Ger - the nomad's tent.
Over the centuries, nomads have principally depended on this collapsible, round tent. Its durability, lightness and low cost are of tremendous advantage to the nomad. The ger is more than a tent, it is a "home", since Mongols live in it throughout the year and prefer them to other forms of housing. The Ger is a unique model of engineering - an ingenious prefabricated home. It is mostly made of wood and other locally available materials. Quickly assembled or taken to pieces, it is easily transported on camelback or by truck. The lower part of the ger consists of sections of trellis-like walls of willow wood, including the door within its circular frame work. The upper part consists of two long upright poles supporting a central wooden roof ring, (toono), onto which many thinner poles are placed.
Depending on the size of the ger, roof poles can number up to 108 (a sacred Buddhist number). Each one fits onto the lattice walls,fixed by straps of raw hide made from camel skin. The roof ring is the most complex part of the structure. Apart from holding the poles in place and acting as a smoke vent, it is also a natural sundial. The early-morning rays indicate time for milking and pasturing animals. If it shines to the back of the ger, it is after midday and "too late" to set out on a long journey. During bad weather, the single roof ring "window" is covered with a piece of felt, or hide, called an arch.
The outside wall is wrapped with felt pieces placed across the top of the ger, leaving the roof ring open for the stove's chimney, light and air. Canvas (for waterproofing) covers the ger and is tied around the outer wall by three rows of rope made from horses' hair. In winter, extra felt is added. In summer the wall felt can be rolled up from ground level to let in the breeze. The ger is pitched on the ground, and the floor area is covered by carpets, unless the ger will stay in place for sometime, in which case a wooden floor is laid.
Interior. There is an unusual sequence in assembling the ger. Large items such as beds, cupboards, storage chests and the stove, are placed out in the open air, then the structure is assembled around them, because they are too big to fit in through the door- which, by tradition, always faces south. According to ancient custom, everything has its specific place inside the ger.
The north side is the place of honor. The family shrine is placed on a cupboard or chest. Beds are placed close to the east and west sides, stacked with colorful cushions, blankets and neatly folded bedclothes for the night. Everything is kept tidy. The west front of the ger (the man's side) keeps work equipment, such as saddle and tack, next is the calfskin sack especially for fermenting mare's milk (airbag). On the woman's side (east front) there are open shelves for jugs, pans and bowls. A cupboard for cooking and eating utensils. The stove is in the middle of the ger with the fuel box next to the stove on the door side.
Exterior. The area surrounding the ger has to be kept clean and tidy, so the rubbish tip and the latrine pit are some distance away. Some nomads have a second smaller ger for storage. Mongolian women and girls usually do the milking, while the men and boys look after the animals and ensure that the herds have enough fodder and water.
Mongol herders are closely bonded to their animals - particularly their horses. They are experts in the treatment and handling of their livestock. Ts Balhaajav, a Mongolian writer, wrote that, " From the air the ger's dome-shaped structure looks like natural pearls scattered on green silk."