Watch a Mongolian family assemble their yurt in fast-forward video

[Video Link] Shot by multimedia journalist Dan Grossman, who writes:

The nomadic people of Mongolia don't stay in one place for long. That's why they live in gers (which American's know by the Russian name, yurt), a home that is fast and easy to assemble and disassemble. Putting up a ger (pronounced gair) is fast and easy, but its best done by an entire family. This ger was moved by the family of Shagdarsuren Herelchuluun, on the east side of Lake Hovsgol, in northern Mongolia, not far from the Russian border.

(via @pulitzercenter)


  1. Yurts are awesome.  

    My wonderful, crunchy, homesteading, back to the earth hippie parents bought me one of these as a bedroom when I turned twelve, rather than adding onto our house.  There was quite a lot of begging and pleading related to sharing a room with my sister…

    I helped my dad build a wooden platform for it near the house, and then we all put it up just before the first snows.  

    Not very large- just my bed, a desk, a dresser, a little wooden closet and some bookshelves inside.  Plus some big rugs and a little cast iron sailboat stove.  The coziest, warmest, most perfect little place to live.  It’s really home to some of my happiest memories in the world.

    1. No, it’s not the gers/yurts that are awesome.  It’s the Mongolian nomads who are awesome.

      If you’re not squeamish, watch “Urga – Close to Eden”.  The scene where Mongo skillfully stops a sheep’s heart – by hand, so as to have a nearly bloodless slaughter is astounding.

      The first time I saw this scene, I thought: “He’s done this before…more than once.”

      1. That’s interesting. I was taught that the best kill involved cutting the animal’s throat while the heart continued to beat, allowing more of the blood to be pumped out of the tissue.

        1. In the film, Mongo grabs a sheep, flips it on its back, reaches into his boot, pulls out a small pocket knife.  He makes a small cut just below the rib cage, and insert his hand up into the chest cavity for a few seconds (likely held the heart so it would stop beating) and the sheep goes limp.

  2. I own a geir, also known as a yurt, and this could be done faster, with fewer layers and a floor, although the good canvas is more expensive. Also, the poles below the O-ring aren’t necessary.

    Good throat-singing in the background, though. :)

    1. The two poles beneath the crown (which I always refer to as the “sky-hole”) are traditional and have ritual and symbolic meaning.  Sometimes the chimney is integrated into one, but that’s less common.  I’m told there are symbolic and ritual meanings to the position and layout of every single thing in the ger, in fact.

      Agree about the throat-singing!  Wonderful video.

      These guys use way more compression bands than I ever do.

  3. Lovely people the Mongolians.  We took, in a bit of a boo-boo, the colonel who’s in charge of their southern border patrols out to a Chinese restaurant here in Toronto.  He had no idea how to use chopsticks and was perplexed at a lot of the ingredients: never having seen seafood, or even the sea.

    He explained that, unlike Canada which is only in bed with one elephant, Mongolia has two adjacent elephants: China and Russia.

  4. I hand-built a ger, taught by the good people at Little Foot Yurts in Nova Scotia.  Gers are a hell of a lot faster to take down and put up than to build.   I also loved it as a living space, there’s something particularly cozy and comfortable about round rooms.  The poles below the o-ring aren’t structurally necessary but do have purpose within the yurt.   Every piece symbolizes something, these are not people who move around large pieces of wood for no reason!  Also notice how they pass the ring over the walls, not through the door, which is considered bad form.   It’s cool to see it sped up, but worth noting that the process slowed down is quite graceful and meaningful.  Each individual pieces is light enough to be moved by one person, the engineering of the whole dwelling is pretty slick.

  5. A couple friends of mine have a yurt  (or maybe a ger, I dunno) that they go to SCA and raqs sharqi events in. Fits in a little trailer, and basically becomes a luxurious apartment, with a kitchen, clothes closets, a bed… Definitely the way to camp.

  6. I had a great time building a couple of these when I was in Mongolia in 2006. They really are very quick to put up, even for beginners – I’m surprised it took them so long in this video. Interesting that they also didn’t put down a floor, or line the walls and roof with rolls of felt, as it can get pretty cold there, even in the summer. 

  7. And made waterproof with the use of the traditional ancient-Mongolian polyethylene sheet…  ;-)

    1. I smiled at that too. But hey, the whole ger was delivered in a van – it’s a home, not a museum.

  8. I see the Mongolians are (as they have always been) adaptable people. 

    They found polyethylene lightweight and waterproof and now use it as an inner layer. I speculate also that they found polyethylene difficult to securely tie down flat and prone to tearing away in high winds. Maybe polyurethane with eyelets is just too heavy, or too expensive, or too noisy.

    Now for the ridiculous part: Why do I keep imagining the same scene with the same mongolian family, only they are vacuum suited, on Mars?

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