A major part of our responsible tourism philosophy is that we work directly with local families throughout Mongolia including Aisholpan the eagle huntress and her family. Our friendships with the local people of Mongolia are genuine friendships. We go out and meet people. We get to know them – to learn about their lives and their needs – without being invasive. These are real people with real lives to lead. We don’t ask them to change their daily schedule or to put on an ‘act’. We know the stresses and the strains they face. We know their strengths and weakness. We know their likes and dislikes.They are much as part of our team and the EL family as we are.
Another major focus of our philosophy is that we provide training and development opportunities to Mongolian women that other companies won’t take as they don’t fit the stereotype or don’t have the professional qualifications. As part of that philosophy, I believe that seeing Mongolian women in independent positions is surely one of the best ways to inspire younger Mongolian girls within the rural communities of Mongolia, and to let them understand that they can do the same.
And this all comes together with our work with Aisholpan – the eagle huntress. Aisholpan is the young female Kazakh eagle hunter … the first female eagle hunter in western Mongolia. She entered her first eagle hunting competition at the age of 13 – and won.
The documentary (aptly named the Eagle Huntress) documents Aisholpan as she learns from her father to train her female golden eagle (named Akkanat) – breaking a centuries-old tradition that says the skill is handed down from father to son (after Aisholpan’s brother left to join the Army).
The film caused quite a stir – with even Daisy Ridley the Star Wars actress got involved.
Groups continue to queue to meet her and photograph her – especially as the Kazakh eagle festivals. So. We do things a little differently. We invite her to lunch. She often brings her father – Nurgaiv but has on occasion brought her mum – Almar.
Why do we do this? Yes, Aisholpan is the first female eagle hunter and now a famous film star but she is also a young woman who enjoys going to her school – the Zayed Secondary School in Ulgii – and meeting with her friends. She is also a very sociable young woman and likes to meet people from other cultures and countries.
My favourite moment with her since we have been working together with her family was in the winter in her family home in the rural community of Altansogts. Togteher with her younger brother and sister, we taught them the game of Ghost and competition was fierce. Aisholpan wasn’t a film start or an eagle hunter, she was just hanging out with her family, messaging her friends on Facebook and helping her mum around the house. Just daily real life.
As mentioned, our trip assistants are female and Mongolian. What I have enjoyed the most is seeing how our trip assistants and Aisholpan have formed a firm friendship. For example, one of the past discussions included dreams and ambitions (Aisholpan – physician, Oyuha – member of parliament). Aisholpan has received offers from both Harvard and Oxford and has said many times to us that although the film was fun, her dream is still to be a physician. All I can say is watch this space.
We now also work alongside another young female eagle hunter – Aigerim. Together with her family, including her eagle hunter father Asker, they are based in Altai soum. During the summer months when Aigerim is not at school, she enjoys joining our guests on their hikes and doing jump shot selfies! What I love is that eagle hunting has allowed both these young women – Aisholpan and Aigerim – to become courageous whilst at the same time teaching them the strength of perseverance as they continue to overcome obstacles such as centuries of tradition.
If you’re interested in experiencing the way of life of Aisholpan or Aigerim then take a look at our Mongolia tours page of our website. As mentioned, schooling is important to their future and we like to support them rather than impose on them so please be prepared to be flexible. Do get in touch for details.
Jess @ Eternal Landscapes