Imagine a carnival crossed with a peculiar kind of Olympics. This is Naadam. People dress up in their finest deel, the traditional long colourful silken robe, the men adding the local touch of a cowboy hat and boots. The younger women put on perilously high stilettos, even though they may well end up on the back of a horse or walking in the mud.
Dressed in their best, everyone then drives – or, more often, outside Ulaanbaatar, rides their horse – into town. There they watch racing, wrestling, archery and knucklebone shooting (a kind of hard-core tiddlywinks) – the four most prized attributes of a good nomad, apparently.
Naadam happens across the country, and comes in different shapes and sizes. I was advised that the best idea is to experience a day or so in and around Ulaanbaatar and then head to a small town or village.