Day 11, Wedding Day, Mongolia - June 10, 2017 of Mongolia and Japan Trip (May 31 - June 28, 2017) [under construction]

So much happened on this day including a Kazakh wedding, that I am putting in the complete diary entries. (Click on any photo to get the full resolution version.)

- Another amazing day, maybe more amazing than the others (except for Malchin Peak). (Nothing dangerous)

- As usual we rode our horses through long valleys, up over tall ridges with spectacular views, and, suddenly saw actual forests. I took a lot of tree pics.

- We came across a very large, very old cemetery that included one bricked in area devoted to Bahu's side of his family.

- All the cemetery signs identifying the buried faced to the east since this was a Muslim cemetery.

- At one point all sat down (including Alan & me) and went through ritual hand motions in honor of the buried.

- One man who had 10,000 horses was honored by killing 100 horses (horses are eaten) and having a building erected in his honor at the cemetery.

- One member of our entourage, Baybolat, is a devout practicing Muslim who prays five times a day facing to the east.

- We arrived at the wedding location around 11 AM where 5 gers had been set up to serve the guests.

- Bahu informed me it turned out to be a "small" wedding because at this time of year so many people were busy moving from winter to spring to summer homes. Only about 300 people showed up, unlike a typical 800 person wedding.

- The whole wedding was such a fun & different experience. So many things to see & do.

- Alan loves to take pics of people and word spread. We stood out as the only 2 non-Mongol/Kazakh/Asian.

Some highlights:

- Wedding was not over till around 3:30 & formally started at noon.

- Before wedding we went into ger and sat and ate pre-meal snacks (milk tea, cookies, candy bars, yoghurt (goat), cheese (goat), bread, ...)

- Large hawks in large numbers, no doubt smelling the mutton being prepared from sheep killed the night before.

- The wedding ceremony entertainment includes Mongolian wrestlers who first wrestle audience members who want to try & then later wrestle each other until the champion wins a horse as a prize. This goes on for hours after the couple are married.

- The wedding ceremony takes place in a small area (1/4 acre?) marked off by a rope on the ground.

- Guests sit on the ground outside the rope. There is a covered seating area for relatives on one side, a table, and mikes for the singers. A flat bed truck holds speakers/amplifiers.

- Alan & I are invited into the area temporarily so we can take pics of the relatives. (There is also a professional photographer).

- At one point Bahu suggests we could get better photos during the ceremony from the opposite corner next to the relative seating where the flatbed truck is. Alan declines. At first I also stay where we are and continue photographing.

- The wedding party (bride, groom, best lady, best man) pull up in a large Land Rover festooned with balloons.

- They move to the center of the wedding area while we photograph and video.

- Then I reconsidered Bahu's suggestion and thought why not check it out? So I went over and stood with several others in a crowded corner. Then I noticed kids way up on th flat bed of the truck with the speakers. If I could get up there it would be absolutely perfect for photos/videos.

- The flat bed has no way up that I can see. One kid comes over and tries to reach down to give me a hand, but it is just too high. He jumps to the ground but that is no help. Then I see a short metal knob about half the width of my boot sole sticking out of the side of the truck half way up to the flat bed. I can just get one foot onto it, barely, grab the side of the truck and pull myself up. Success!

- I have the perfect view.

- Lots & lots of ceremony & lots & lots of video.

- During part of the ceremony, the singer performs a very long song (video is almost 8 minutes long) and many times during it the bride steps forward & makes a small bow then returns to the line of 4 (bride's maid, groom, bride, groom's man).

[Note: it is now after 11 pm & I am going to sleep. Lots more to cover. At least the goats outside the tent and the sheep have left and/or quieted down.]

- After the wedding vows are completed and speeches by relatives are done & small glasses of champagne are shared, the 4 sit at a small table near the corner opposite the truck.

- Now the wrestlers start entering the square, usually 4 at a time. They are minimally dressed - it is a sunny but cool day. Each one has a hat with a spike.

- Each wrestler walks up to some official, walks back & forth with hand on official, official removes spiked hat, more ceremonial waving.

- Audience members are solicited to wrestle and a few actually enter and compete. And lose. Except for one who then gets lots of applause.

- Between matches various performances, e.g., singing by youngsters & speeches took place.

- This went on for a couple of hours.

- After all was over (Bahu's friend's brother won the horse) we were ushered back into gers. Old men all went into 1 ger.

- Bahu as our guide was the 1 young man allowed in our ger. He was pleased he said because the very best of the mutton was served to the old men.

- As always, the inside of the ger was beautifully walled, floored and ceilinged with handmade rugs and other decorations.

- After much shuffling around & removal of earlier treats, the mutton was served with potatoes and carrots.

- The mutton included the skulls and head meat of the sheep. Old men get the best!

- I ate lots of potatos & carrots.

- Alan said it was the best mutton he had ever eaten, in fact the best meat he had ever eaten. I took one bite and decided to stick with the veg.

- One of the guys told Alan there were lots of single women and any such woman near his age would happily marry him so why did he not get one.

- Alan of course said he was already happily married for 21 years.

- The guy said "So what. I have 6 wives."

- Alan joked that handling just 1 wife was all he could do.

- I asked Bahu could husbands have more than 1 wife and he said yes. Later he said the guy did not have 6 wives, only 1. Bahu did all the translating of course. Much laughter.

- After eating, we went back outside and an elderly guy asked Alan to take his photo on his race horse. This led to many pics, including Alan on the race horse.

- Around 4 pm we mounted and started riding again, as usual through beautiful country with valleys & rivers.

- Unusual was several cars and motorcycles passing as other wedding guests left. Lots of waving. We had to get off the road each time.

- Once I was crossing a stream slowly as a car approached.

- We ended up staying next to a family known to Bahu who own flocks of sheep, goats, yaks, cattle.

- After setting up camp, we had tea, then dinner (soup & sliced cucumber and sliced tomatoes).

- [Alan is outside our tent right now (7 am) talking to yaks near our tents. Very near. On two sides. About 20 yaks.]

- We also went and visited the family (who served more food) and took pics of the couple, 2 of their sons (they had 3 sons, 3 daughters) and a couple of grandchildren.

- Back to wedding: at one point we were taking a photo of our expedition group. Some unknown guy joins and sits in middle. Then he pulls out handfulls of cash to display in front of himself & tells us his briefcase has even much more. He was buying fur for cashmere. Odd.

Contact/Website Author:
Bob Phillips [phillips bob 27 at yahoo dot com - no spaces]
Santa Rosa, CA
April, 2015

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