Visiting pastoralists in the Gobi Desert, Mongolia

Visiting pastoralists in the Gobi Desert, Mongolia

adventure travel & photography

Destinations: Pakistan ◦◦ India ◦◦Turkey ◦◦ Egypt ◦◦ Bulgaria ◦◦ Mongolia ◦◦ Bangladesh ◦◦ Jordan ◦◦ Russia ◦◦ Turkmenistan ◦◦ Iran ◦◦ Kazakhstan ◦◦ Japan ◦◦ Hong Kong ◦◦ Greece ◦◦ Ukraine ◦◦ Syria ◦◦ Morocco ◦◦ Italy ◦◦ Mauritania ◦◦ Oman

Type: Photo stories ◦◦ Places ◦◦ Documentary ◦◦ Black and White ◦◦ Fine Art Prints ◦◦ Seascapes ◦◦ Urban

The story

Most Mongolians living outside Ulaanbaatar are pastoralists. They live in yurts, scattered hundreds of kilometres apart, far from civilization. We often wondered, "What were the lonely shepherds doing in the evening?" as we passed another isolated yurt.


In the afternoon, we arrived at a yurt camp of a nomadic family in the middle of nowhere. We spent the evening and night with them, observing and participating in their usual activities. The family cooked us a traditional Mongolian barbecue, but they seemed worried and depressed, despite their efforts to hide it, and left us to eat alone.


A middleman arrived at the camp, and all the family members were occupied selecting, slaughtering, and preparing the meat.


A girl from the family had fallen from a motorcycle about a kilometer away from the yurts. One of the men carried her in, her head covered in blood, shaking. They lacked essential medicines and disinfectants, even basic headache pills. We treated her injury and provided her parents with the drugs we had.


In the middle of the night, anxious voices woke us. The sheep and goats in the nearby sheepfold had become agitated, and the commotion lasted for half an hour. In the morning, we realized predators had attempted to attack the herd.


That evening and night was a busy one for this family. First, they had to deal with us, then the middleman, and finally, the wolves in the backyard.

That was a singular experience for us and an enthralling tale to tell, for the family - the cruel reality they confront daily. I felt sorrow for the people. Two disparate worlds had encountered for a fleeting moment and then parted ways as if nothing had occurred.


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