EXPERIENCE NA ADAM
The final competitions take place in Ulaanbaatar during three days, usually July 11–13. Alternatively, many towns across the country hold preliminary tournaments throughout June and July, but dates change at random. It’s best to ask around if you want to
it’s often more interesting to attend these more raw and rural events than to watch the activities at the National Stadium, where flashy billboards abound. The infrastructure is more basic outside of the capital, but the spirit of the competition is more fervent – and there is a chance to see the contenders up close. Competitors will often chat with visitors and even invite them for a meal afterwards. “I prefer to attend the matches here,” shares a youngster in Zaamar, a couple of hundred kilometres east of the capital. “Although the standard may be lower, we know the people and the excitement is far greater.”
Those who are not interested in sports will also enjoy Naadam. Many cultural activities are held across Ulaanbaatar during this time, and there is an opportunity to jostle with the local population from all corners of the country – kitted out in their best traditional costumes. Concerts are often held at Sukhbaatar Square, and fireworks light up the sky close to midnight. Into the early hours of the morning, parties are in full swing, and the city dances away until sunrise. It’s a testimony to the fact that Mongolia is also well up to speed with the developments of the 21st century: Inside the modern discos and pubs, the traditional deel tunic has been traded in for the latest fashion items, and ancient tunes have faded into techno. However, the vodka flows as it always has – a reminder that some traditions never change. ag MIGUEL CANDELA is a photographer currently based in Hong Kong, specialising in social features across Asia. He won Best New Talent at the 2012 Prix de la Photographie (Px3) Paris competition.