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Mongolia

Mongolia is a sprawling, sparsely-populated country in Central Asia. Ethnic groups include a Mongol majority and approximately 4% Kazakh minority. The official language is Mongolian but Russian and English are frequently used, and some people speak various dialects and Turkic languages. The terrain includes the Gobi Desert, mountains, and steppes. The weather tends to be extreme, whether heat or cold is the current condition. Native animal species include marmots, snow leopards, and the Mongolian Yak. Agriculture and livestock breeding have long been economic mainstays in this semi-nomadic culture, but industry based on mineral deposits of copper, coal, molybdenum, tin, tungsten, and gold is catching up.

At the banks of the Tuul River at Tsonjin Boldog, you can climb inside the giant Genghis Khan statue, the largest equestrian statue in the world. You can actually eat horsemeat or play pool as well as ascend to the top. You can also see extraordinary temples at Gandan Khiid in the capital of Ulaanbaatar, or visit the lakes and mountains of Kh├Âvsg├Âl Nuur National Park.

Dumplings like the meat-filled buuz and noodles, which are often added to soups, are popular starches. Barley is a common grain. Mongolians eat a lot of animal fat, including meats like cattle, horses, camels, yaks, sheep, and goats. Dairy is an important part of the diet, and includes byaslag (cheese), aaruul (dried curds), yogurt, kefir, and a milk liquor called Shimiin Arkhi. Try arvain guril (barley flour) eaten as a porridge with milk fat and sugar, or as a drink mixed into milk tea. It is surprisingly very feasible to get your hands on some vegetarian grub in American or Asian-style restaurants. Organics, if available, are not well advertised. Try the Chinggis vodka, named after Genghis Khan, and almost as popular with locals.

Ulaanbaatar

Ulan Bator | Ulaanbaatar