The Gobi desert – habitat for people and animals
The Gobi is very sparsely populated. In the Aimak South Gobi (165,000 km²; 9.3 times the area of the new federal states), for example, there are around 27,000 people; that means: one person per 6 km² of land area. The residents of the Gobi are cattle breeders (Araten) of Mongolian descent who wander around with their felt tents (yurts) and herds (sheep, goats, camels, horses). The greatest danger to this nomadic livestock industry are cold winters with a lot of snow or with a hard-frozen snow cover. Then the animals can no longer scratch the food that is sparse under the snow with their hooves. They then die in great numbers. Nature does not allow larger food reserves to be created in summer. The last disaster of this kind occurred in the winter of 2000/2001. Of the approx. 25 million head of cattle in Mongolia, including approx. 15 million sheep and 5 million goats, approximately 5 million head of cattle perished. And this with a population of around 2.5 million (2 residents / Km²).
The traditional yurts(Mongolian = “ger”), recognizable as isolated, white dots in the infinite space, have been the living quarters of the Mongols in the Gobi desert for centuries and have also proven themselves. In winter, heated with dried manure, they are warm and in summer, with air circulation through a small opening in the lower wall cover, they are pleasantly cool. They are erected from an expanded concertina gate, which is combined to form the wall (Figure 4). In the center of the circle, two raised posts support a kind of arched “wagon wheel”. To this, wooden poles are placed like a fan from the wall. Depending on the outside temperature, a number of felt sheets are placed on top of one another, which have been lightened with lime, bone meal or white earth. The yurt is then covered with a white linen cloth, hold onto the horsehair rope. The “wagon wheel” is given a special cover that can be opened or closed as desired with ropes, e.g. B. for ventilation, in the rain or to push out the iron pipe of the “Bullerjans”, the stove.
On the south side of the yurt (sacred direction of the Mongols), a brightly painted entrance door (more of a flap) with a high threshold is integrated into the archipelago grid. Nobody may step on this threshold or stumble over it. In olden times it even bore the death penalty.
The yurts can be of different sizes and heights, e.g. B. diameter 8 m, wall height 1.5 m, highest point 3 m. Due to its construction and its own weight (felt weight alone approx. 200 kg), the yurt is very stable. It can be set up and dismantled in a short time, loaded onto camels or carts (today also trucks) and transported to another location. Because of the sparse grazing grounds in the Gobi, this may even be necessary every two weeks.
In the inside of the yurt there is a strict order. Opposite the entrance, on the north side, there is a larger chest, which is upholstered by carpets and is also used as a seat for guests (Fig. 5). In the east is the housewife’s bed and in the west the bed of the householder. The children sleep in their parents’ beds or on the floor. The kitchen appliances and supplies are located next to the entrance on the women’s side (Fig. 6).
Please adhere to airag (in Russian and Turkic peoples Kumyss called), which is fermented mare’s milk, bjaslag that is soft cheese (air-dried for the winter and hard as nails, he’s aaruul) not be missing as well as archived, one derived from milk clearer house brand liquor, and Suutei tsai, green brick tea (pressed stems and leftover leaves of the tea plant) mixed with salt, milk, a little (rancid) butter or mutton fat.
On the other side of the entrance, on the men’s side, there is space for a saddle, bridle, tools and possibly a shed for premature lambs from sheep and goats. In the middle of the yurt is the “cannon stove” and behind it, in front of the chest, is a low table with stools. In the case of splendid yurts, the wooden frame in the yurt is painted bright red with gold decorations. Splendid silk fabrics are placed on the woods, which completes the oriental atmosphere.
The herds of ranchers in the Gobi are much larger than expected in this barren landscape. Sheep are kept for meat and wool production; Mutton is a staple food. Goats, especially the cashmere goat, provide the downy, silky hair for the manufacture of fine cashmere products (Fig. 7).
Horses are mainly used as riding animals and are sometimes exported for use in inhospitable areas. The Mongolian horse is hardy and comparable in size to the pony.
All of the animal species mentioned are also used to obtain milk for the production of beverages, butter and cheese. For this purpose, the females are milked several times a day, the mares even 4 to 7 times.
In contrast to the single-humped dromedary, the camels are also used to produce wool. They lose their winter fur in June. The camel hair then slobbers on her body in large shreds. Otherwise, the camels are very fast mounts and the traditional means of transport in the Gobi, with which yurts and equipment are also moved.
The yak, which is widespread in northern Mongolia and can reach heights of 5,000 m, overcomes gradients of 75% and can withstand temperatures down to -50 °C, is rarely found in the Gobi.
In the Chinese part of the Gobi, the land is already partially divided. A sedentary lifestyle has moved into the ranchers. There are paddock fences and mud huts there.