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Modern Yurts vs. Traditional Yurts

Sain baina uu? 

Whether you’re new to the world of yurts, a yurt enthusiast, or for generations your family has been building and assembling gers from scratch, you have likely been made aware that there is more than one type of yurt. Yurts date back to more than 3000 years ago in Central Asia and have evolved a great deal since. Traditional Mongolian and Turkic yurts are most common in Central Asia, however, the rest of the world has seen growth in popularity for both the traditional and modern versions. But what is the best way to go? Well, this depends on your style, location, climate & municipal regulations. 

Traditional Yurts

Traditional yurts are nomadic tents that have been used by Central Asian tribes for centuries. They are made of felt or other natural materials and are typically circular in shape. The structure of a traditional yurt consists of lattice walls attached in a circle and supporting roof rafters that are radiating from a central dome opened to the sky (called toono in Mongolia). The wall and roof covers are made of felt and canvas and are held in place by horse-hair ropes. The floor is typically made of packed earth or a wooden platform.

Mongolian gers, in particular, are extremely efficient due to their compact silhouette that has been shaped in an extreme climate over the course of hundreds of years. They are fairly easy to move from one location to the other and leave little to no footprint.

Modern Yurts

Modern yurts, on the other hand, are a more recent development and are typically using more manmade materials such as vynil for the outer cover.  The structure of modern yurts are often higher to accommodate standard doors and a steeper pitch. Reflective bubble wrap is mostly used as insulation.  The flooring can be wooden or made of other sturdy materials. Some modern yurts can also be equipped with plumbing and electrical systems.

Durability

Mongolian yurts, which are still used today by about half the Mongolian population, were developed to withstand the harshest weather conditions – making them 4-season dwellings. Modern Yurts can also survive seasonal changes, which attests to why both are popular North America.

Doors

The origin proportions of the Mongolian yurt were tried and tested for thousands of years and are still honored throughout Mongolia to this day. Notably, the doors are smaller than North American standards. This is not because Mongolians are short, but rather, because of functionality and physics! The short doorway allows for a more aerodynamic shape, making it easy for the yurt structure to endure high winds. Additionally, it is also proven to be more efficient to heat during the winter season! 

Modern yurts were designed with higher doors to fit the North American building codes. It should be noted that this modification is not as effective at resisting high winds.

Materials 

Another main difference is the materials that are used to construct the yurts. Traditional Yurts are hand-made with natural and breathable materials, heavily avoiding the use of plastic to cover and insulate the yurt. Modern Yurts are mainly constructed with vinyl covers for the outside layer.  A big concern with the use of nonbreathable material is that the yurt consequently has an issue with fending off condensation, affecting ease of maintenance and comfortability.

About Groovy Yurts

At Groovy Yurts, we too have modified the yurt very slightly, with most respect for Mongolian traditions! Because of the moist climates we often face, we’ve added a layer of breathable membrane between the canvas and the felt insulation. This hinders the breathability of the yurt slightly but is the best compromise that we have found to prevent water from coming in, while allowing the humidity to escape. 

Additionally, for those with more minimalistic styles, we have partnered with Tuya and her team to provide our new line of contemporary yurtsThe Natural Wood Collection! These Mongolian gers allow the natural woodwork to shine. Be sure to check them out!

As one of the oldest dwellings in the world, the yurt never ceases to amaze us with its capacity to adapt to different needs and conditions. No matter how you compare them, they all share the same core value of roundness that brings people together! So, we’ve laid it all out. The pros, cons, and realities of living out of a traditional or modern yurt. Now the million-dollar question is, which yurt best suits you?

Next Read: Winter Yurt Tips  

 

Source:

Modern Yurt Image: https://zurl.co/IGG4

 

Yurt Permits and Building Codes

Our Journey with Yurt Permits and Building Codes

By: Laura McLeod and Meredith Rush-Inglis

Thinking about building or purchasing a yurt? One of the largest obstacles for future traditional yurt owners is obtaining yurt permits and compliance with existing yurt building codes (or lack thereof). Sometimes this involves working closely with authorities to update building regulations. This change can be difficult and, in some cases, frustrating; you must adapt and become a change-maker. Here are some tips: 

  1. Determine Authority for Enforcing Building Code (Generally the Local Municipality) Before Purchasing a Yurt

In Ontario, Canada, the local municipality is the authority for enforcing the Building Code. Therefore, your first point of contact should be your local municipality to gain information about the Ontario yurt building codes and regulations. Get in touch with the municipal building department for information on the applicability of the Code and whether a building permit is required. If it is, prepare yourself to navigate the system skillfully and calmly. 

The process of permitting a yurt will take time, so it’s best to start as soon as you are thinking about a purchase. Please consult with your local municipality regarding building codes, by-laws, and permit fees before committing. For assistance with this process, you may wish to seek the services of a qualified engineer or planner. 

  1. Familiarize Yourself with the Municipality’s By-Laws, Challenges & Building Code

You may need to politely argue for common sense. When dealing with a municipality, some challenges to consider are: 

  • Municipalities are inconsistent in their handling of alternative structures. Some municipalities have categorized yurts as temporary or non-permanent structures that do not require building permits. However, some building officials take the position that a yurt fits the Ontario Building Code definition of a structure and requires a permit based on its size and usage. 
  • Yurts often do not fit neatly into any category under municipal building by-laws and can be subject to the same categories and fees as more expensive permanent structures. 
  • As in all areas of life, personalities can be challenging and pride can be an obstacle, especially with those in positions of authority. A building official may not appreciate having their authority challenged by citizens or elected officials! 
  1. Familiarize Yourself with the Definitions of ‘Yurt’, ‘Building’ & ‘Tent’ 

Depending on your jurisdiction, you may need to politely argue for clarity on these terms. The Ontario Building Code does not specifically mention the word ‘Yurt’, but common definitions exist: 

  • “A circular domed tent of skins or felt stretched over a collapsible lattice framework and used by pastoral peoples of inner Asia.” 
  • “Type of round tent with a wooden frame, used traditionally as a home by some Central Asian people, and now sometimes used for camping in Western countries” 

The Code does, however, indicate what a building is: 

  • A structure occupying an area greater than ten square metres consisting of a wall, roof and floor or any of them or a structural system serving the function hereof including all plumbing, works, fixtures and service systems appurtenant thereto,
  • A structure occupying an area of ten square metres or less that contains plumbing, including the plumbing appurtenant thereto 
  1. plumbing not located in a structure, 
  2. a sewage system, or 
  3. structures designated in the building code 

And the Building Code indicates when a permit is not required for a tent: 

  • A tent or group of tents is exempt from the requirement to obtain a permit under section 8 of the Act and is exempt from compliance with the Code provided that the tent or group of tents are: 
    1. not more than 60 m2 in aggregate ground area 
    2. not attached to a building, and 
    3. constructed more than 3m from other structure
  1. Don’t Give Up!

Try not to get fed up with the challenge of blending nomadic and settler lifestyles. There is still much work to be done around sharing what yurts are and what benefits they can provide for people seeking alternative lifestyles. Your love of yurts and conviction will provide good fuel for inspired and considerate interactions within your municipality. Be a change-maker!

Sources:

1.  “Yurt.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/yurt. Accessed 29 Nov. 2021.
 2. Yurt. Cambridge Dictionary. (n.d.). Retrieved November 29, 2021, from https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/yurt. 

 

 

Naadam Festival Archery Games

Celebrating Mongolia’s Naadam Festival

The Naadam Festival, traditionally known as simply “Naadam”, is the most anticipated and action-filled national holiday in Mongolia. Naadam is “inseparably connected to the nomadic civilization of the Mongols, who have long practiced pastoralism on Central Asia’s vast steppe.” From July 11th – 13th, the people of Mongolia come together to compete in traditional sports and games “using distinctive tools and sporting items”, while overall enjoying the pleasures of their rich culture. You’ll be able to spot men, women, and children dressed from head to toe in colorful-bold patterns, special costumes, and traditional Mongolian clothing. Main attractions at this festival include their traditional cuisine, singing (including long song & Khöömei overtone singing), the Bie biyelgee dance, Morin khuur fiddle, craftsmanship…just to name a few! Tourists also come from near and far to learn about Mongolian traditions and lifestyle, as well as to partake in the wide range of activities that Naadam presents.

Naadam Festival Women's Dance

Naadam Games

Naadam translates to the ‘festival’ or ‘feasts of sports’. This festival has been celebrated over a millenia and is still going strong today. Many Naadam’s are held across the capital, Ulaanbaatar, allowing for Mongols to participate in the neighboring games. Amongst the locals, Naadam is known as “Eriin Gurvan Naadam” which translates to “three manly sports”. 

The three sports include wrestling, horse racing, and archery. Years later, the traditional game of ankle-bone-shooting joined the line up resulting in 4 main sports that are played during the festival. Women and children also partake in sports (excluding wrestling) despite the name translation.

Naadam Wrestling 

Following the opening ceremony, the wrestling games occur over 2 days. These matches are a sight to see as the wrestlers wear special clothing highlighting their strength. Just like any sport there are rounds, rules, onlookers, and a winner! With over 500 wrestlers and 1 winner, it can get very competitive. All wrestlers are welcomed and treated equally, regardless of experience, so an onlooker may witness “veterans wrestle with young amateurs.”  Eminent wrestlers are awarded national titles by the Mongolian government and are highlighted in Ulaanbaatar. Wrestling in Mongolia is an annual crowd favorite during Naadam.

Naadam Festival Wrestling Games

Naadam Horse Race 

Mongols have a plethora of horse racing games throughout the year as it is a popular event in Mongolia. Races such as the Naadam Festival race, Tsagaan Sar Lunar New Year race, the spring horse race and the Ikh Hurd race take place and draw large crowds. One month preceding the Naadam Horse Race, horses are taken care of and trained for the games. Then, hours before the horse race begins, horses are left grazing in open fields.

Horse racing is mostly for Mongolian children aged 7-13 and “the racing distance differs depending on the ages of the horse. There are six racing categories in the Naadam festival according to the age of the horses.” Based on ancient tradition, children rode horses without saddles but due to new safety regulations, saddles are a must.

Naadam Festival Horse Race

Naadam Archery

Three kinds of archery are practiced in Mongolia, “Khalkha Kharvaa/Khalka archery, Buriat Kharvaa/Buriat archery and Uriankhai Kharvaa/Uriankhai archery.” The bow is made from natural wood, horn, sinew, leather and animal glue” and is well prepared before the games as it takes about 6 months to 1 year for it to be fashioned and formed. The arrow is crafted with natural “bone or wood and its shaft is made of feathers from birds of prey.”

Children and adults will alternate their days between participating in the archery games and spectating. Spectators must also help with co-judging the rounds. “The co-judging archers use gestures to indicate scores. If the co-judges raise their hand high, turning the palms up and singing “uukhai”, it means the target was hit and the archer has scored.”

Naadam Festival Archery Games

Naadam Ankle Bone Shooting

The traditional Ankle-Bone-Shooting game was added to the main Naadam games in 1998. It is now listed as a “UNESCO World Heritage game” and is known amongst Mongols as “Shagain Harvaa”. Before it took the Nadaam stage, it was enjoyed and loved by Mongolian Nomads.

 So, what is an Ankle-Bone-Shooting and how is it played during the Naadam games? The ankle bone is likened to dice in the western world and is the knuckle bone or ankle bone of animals. Several games can be in progress at the same time in the shooting tents or fields at the Naadam arena. Each team has 6 main players, plus two stand-by players. A player shoots target bones put in rows on a small wooden structure called “Zurkhai”. Behind the Zurkhai is an Aravch board, which helps the target bones and bullet bone not to scatter. The shooting target distance is 4.7m.

Naadam Festival Ankle-Bone Shooting Game

We hope that  Baata and his family, Tuya and her team and all our other Mongolian brothers and sisters have had a Happy Naadam! The Naadam Festival is truly an unforgettable event that Mongols near the countryside celebrate it for up to 2 weeks!  So with that being said…we are still wishing you all a Happy Naadam and hope you are enjoying or enjoyed it to the fullest!

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