For a first-time traveller to Mongolia, there are a number of traditional customs it is good to know about when visiting a Mongolian ger (felt-lined tent). For that reason, Cox & Kings has come up with some simple rules to abide by to avoid any confusion. To Mongolians, the ger is thought of as more than just a simple dwelling. In its construction the whole universe is represented, the roof represents the sky and the smoke-hole symbolises the sun. In addition, the hearth is said to contain the five basic elements of earth, wood, fire, metal, and water (metal in the grate and water in the kettle).
To start off with, knocking on the door of a ger is not necessary and can actually be considered bad manners – if you are staying with a family, you can just enter. If you are calling by for the first time, just call out “no-khoi kho-rio”, which literally translates as “hold the dog” – alerting the family to your arrival, so they can prepare themselves to come out and greet you.
There are a number of other do’s and don’ts for a ger, but below are the 10 most common ones:
- The door must always face south. Mongolia sometimes experiences a strong northerly wind, so by having the door in this position it means that the wind can be directed around the ger and not through it.
- The west side of the ger is where the men sleep. It is also where visitors sit.
- The east side of the ger is where the women sleep. All the kitchenware is also kept on this side.
- The north is reserved for the man of the house and it’s also where prized possessions are kept.
- Never step on the threshold when entering a ger.
- Men always enter first before women and then children.
- Always walk around a ger in a clockwise direction.
- Receive food or drink with the same hand as the person passing it to you.
- You must take a sip or bite of food and drink when offered, even if it is fermented mare’s milk or dehydrated sour milk curd.
- Be sure to greet your host when entering a ger.
Visitors shouldn’t worry, though, about slipping up on a few of the rules – Mongolians are known for their friendly and welcoming nature.
All photos courtesy of, and copyright of Cox & Kings.