Departures - The Eagles Have Landed: Preserving A Way Of Life In Mongolia < 5min

Ölgii’s airport looks like that of a Soviet border post, which, in a sense, is exactly what it once was. Mongolia left the Soviet Union only in 1990. The tarmac was shrouded in ground mist, and as the sun rose, we saw ash- colored mountains and white nomad gers, or felt tents. Two Land Cruisers took us through Ölgii, with its decayed Soviet squares, through immense flocks of goats mingled with red- cheeked children on their way to school. On the far side, we followed the course of the dark-blue Khovd River, which curves through the desert steppes. Yaks and argali sheep me-andered along the river as well, shadowed by saker falcons. Jalsa’s temporary ger camp is built by the edge of this river every October for the Golden Eagle Festival and then dis-mantled afterward. It lies several miles from Ölgii, in a wilderness of grassland and glittering beech trees, the gers spread out along the gravel banks. ... The Kazakhs were—and many still are—Muslim nomads who emigrated into western Mongolia in the 1860s under pressure from the aggressively expanding czarist Russia. Their language is Turkic and thus unintelligible to Mongols, but they share with their hosts an ancient steppe culture based on the horse, on archery, and on hunting. In Kazakh, eagle hunters are known as berkutchi, from the word for “eagle,” berkut, and as with the Mongols, their falconry skills have been honed over centuries. Genghis Khan himself is rumored to have kept a thousand hunting birds for his pleasure.

Town & Country - Recounting a Once-in-a-Lifetime Trip to Mongolia's Gobi Desert 10min

More than half a million square miles (a thousand miles long and five hundred miles wide), the Gobi Desert is about twice the size of France and with an elevation of 3,000 to 5,000 feet—remote and austere and prized by paleontologists as one of the world's richest sources of dinosaur fossils. Most of it lies in Mongolia, but China rules its southern portion, which is known in that country as Inner Mongolia. ... the snow leopard, the shy Panthera uncia, which has been seen in the wild by only a handful of people and of which only an estimated 4,000 to 6,000 remain outside zoos. ... The Gobi is in many ways like the old American West, filled with abandoned hamlets and buildings, traces of disappeared peoples. Across its oceanic blond grass, horses and the black silhouettes of camels move languidly, as if they are the only inhabitants. Ancient Turkic nomads left enigmatic petroglyphs carved into boulders 2,000 years ago. ... The following morning we got up before first light and drove on across the same open plain toward a distant rim of mountains, guided only by shallow tracks that converged, separated, and reconverged hour after hour, pathways across the desert unreadable to anyone but Gobi drivers. On the far side of the plain, hidden within the low mountains, lay the small and winding valley where Jalsa's lead guide, Anand Munkhuu, who was with us, had seen the snow leopard a few days earlier drinking from a half-frozen stream that ran along its bottom. We went there morning after morning, hoping we too would see it.