A lot of the traditions of Mongolia were made illegal during the Communist era. Even though since independence in the early 1990’s Mongolia has had to forge and reforge its identity, a lot of the banned older customs and social rules have returned and still remain an inherent part of 21st Century Mongolian life. However, some are so integrated into everyday life that it can be hard for visitors to tell that they exist. One tradition that most travellers come across and that remains at the core of rural life in Mongolia is ‘khoorog’ – the passing and receiving of the snuff bottle. Passing a snuff bottle is seen as a formal occasion. If given, always try to remember to accept it with your right hand and with an open palm. You may take a pinch of snuff or just sniff the bottle’s top. Before passing the bottle to another person, you should offer it back to its owner. Do not replace the cap firmly before passing the bottle back – simply leave it resting on top of the bottle, with the snuff blade inside. This great image was taken by our guest Egon Filter on our Untamed Mongolia – one of our Mongolian small group adventures.
Gift Ideas For When Travelling In Mongolia
May 28, 2021
Sunrise from sacred Shiliin Bogd Mongolia
Shiliin Bogd Mongolia
June 28, 2021
Mongolian boots

Guide To Mongolian Souvenirs

In our guide to Mongolian souvenirs, we’re only going to focus on local products.

There is very little bargaining in Mongolia – the price is set. Most shops and markets have fixed prices which are often displayed on the goods. You are unlikely to be charged very much more than the locals unless you are buying antiques, jewelry, or other cultural items, then you may be charged a higher price. By all means, try and get a price down but be reasonable.

 

  • Consider woolen items made out of cashmere, camel or yak wool such as hats, scarves, and jumpers. There are numerous cashmere outlets in Ulaanbaatar including Yamaa, GOBI, Goyo, Altai, and Erdenet.
  • Hand-made felt products are popular for souvenirs and include items such as chessboards, children’s boots, slippers, and placemats. If you’re in Ulaanbaatar, consider visiting Tsagaan Alt – a non-profit shop (on Prime Minister Tserendorj Street) where all products sold are made by local home producers and help to provide a valuable income source and opportunity to those same producers. Another option for handicrafts is Mary and Martha – driven by its philosophy of being a fair and ethical business for artisans in Mongolia. As the name implies, this is also has a Christian outreach programme as well.

Don’t save your souvenir shopping for Ulaanbaatar, a lot of the local, provincial markets also sell locally handcrafted goods although it might take time to find exactly what you want. There are often good sections for Mongolian traditional dels and boots, material and Buddhist / shamanistic items alongside the cheap sunglasses.

 

  • Mongolia has some excellent leather products, and traditional Mongolian boots are a worthwhile investment if you are looking for something a little different. Or, check out the work of Khur with their handmade Mongolian leather products focusing on design and durability. Check your country’s customs regulations to ensure what items you will be able to bring back into your own country.

 

Husug is a project of the Youth Designers and Innovators Association NGO. Items are created by Mongolian designers and handmade details are made by disabled people and women who are socially vulnerable in Mongolia. Items are made typically in wool, felt or leather with no post-processing or dyes.

 

  • Another idea in our guide to Mongolian souvenirs is Mongolian artwork. The following two ideas are both in Ulaanbaatar. The State Department Store has a good general souvenir section including artwork as well as a floor dedicated to different Mongolian cashmere brands. But also consider the Union Of Mongolian Artists (UMA) that operates as an ongoing exhibit, a workshop, artists studios, and a shop and is a small but vibrant community space. Established in 1942, the UMA is Mongolia’s largest, national, non-profit, arts organization which aims to promote Mongolian fine art and art crafts.

When buying any antiques, be careful about what you buy as there may be illegal items for sale. Make sure you obtain a certificate of authenticity, as well as a receipt, in case you are asked for them by customs. The same applies if you are thinking of purchasing rocks or stones, if checked at Immigration they will probably be confiscated (no matter the size).

 

  • Why not consider a Mongolian khadag? A khadag is a Mongolian Buddhist traditional ceremonial scarf. The colour blue represents Mongolia’s Eternal Blue Sky but you can also buy green (land), red (fire), yellow (sun) and white (dairy products). You can buy them in most markets or local shops including those in monasteries and they are light and come in different sizes so easily fit into your luggage.

 

A Mongolian khadag - a Buddhist traditional ceremonial scarf. Part of our guide to Mongolian souvenirs

For something a little different, also consider the Mongolian natural skincare brand Lhamour; one of few companies in Mongolia with a certified organic label acknowledging their commitment to 100% no waste production.

The Mongolian Quilting Centre (https://www.facebook.com/MongolianQuiltingCenter) is known more formally as the Shine Zamnal (New Way Life NGO) was established in 2005 to make a difference to the lives of disadvantaged and unemployed women in Mongolia. Women supported by the project are trained in the art of quilting, textiles and embroidery and use their skills to generate income for their families by crafting products to sell. Not only do the women of NWL make everyday items such as tote bags and tablecloths but also individual pieces of fabric artwork made from discarded and recycled material such as their stunning quilts. To learn more abour our partnership with the Mongolian Quilting Centre – https://www.eternal-landscapes.co.uk/mongolia-one-day-tours-mongolian-quilting-centre/

 

If you’re planning on visiting Mongolia and planning on leaving a little room in your luggage to bring back some souvenirs, then why not consider bringing items for Buddhist NGO Asral – https://www.eternal-landscapes.co.uk/stuff-your-rucksack-for-asral-ngo-mongolia/. You might also find our guide to what gifts to bring with you useful – https://www.eternal-landscapes.co.uk/gift-ideas-for-when-travelling-in-mongolia/

Jessica Brooks
Jessica Brooks
I’m Jess Brooks. I am the founder of Eternal Landscapes Mongolia - a registered Mongolian business and social travel enterprise that focuses on providing travellers with a real 21st Century insight into Mongolia. I have been based in Mongolia since 2006 and together with my beloved Mongolian team, we focus on tourism that makes a positive difference. I'm also a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society - awarded for my work in Mongolia and a published guidebook author - having worked together with World Adventure Guides to produce a digital interactive guide to Mongolia. http://www.jessbrooks.co.uk/
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