As night fell on the grasslands after our afternoon of yurt building, Shirley, my fellow local guides, our guides and I left our nomadic accommodations for nighttime revelry, Inner Mongolia-style.
In the communal area bordered by yurts, we gathered around a bonfire to watch traditional Mongolian dance and throat singing. In Mongolian tradition, throat singing, or “khoomii,” is characterized by replacing all musical instruments with vocals, so that the voice emulates the sound of such instruments. Ranging from very low notes to higher octaves, throat singing is incredibly relaxing (in my opinion). On the quiet grasslands, our small huddle of eager listeners around the singers was an intimate and unique way to listen to this seldom-heard style of music.
Once the bonfire had died out and the singers retired for the night, we retreated to a large, communal yurt for an hour of storytelling. Seated on the floor, our guests listened to grand tales of Genghis Khan, the great Mongol leader, and his adventures and conquests. While Genghis Khan has his fair share of misdoings, his tales also promote universally-applicable morality and life lessons. They were greatly enjoyed by our guests.
Stories told, we gathered our belongings and returned to our respective yurts. Shirley and I discussed the following days’ plans with our local Inner Mongolian guides and chatted for a bit. Our Inner Mongolian guides were easygoing and interesting to talk to – after enjoying their company for the past few days and learning more about their lives in this northern province, I didn’t want to go to sleep! But, after half an hour, Shirley and I left their yurt, ready to prepare ourselves with numerous blankets for a cold night in the grasslands. Thursday, we knew, would be warmer.