Mongolia’s Thousand Camel Festival is a yearly event – falling on the same date each year. Taking place on February 1-3*, this is Mongolia’s only festival dedicated to the Bactrian camel. Put the date and location in your diary. It takes place in Bulgan Soum – a district of Omnogobi Province in the southern Gobi Desert.
Mongolia’s Thousand Camel Festival annual celebration was first initiated in 1997 and is organised by a local NGO and the Governor’s Office of Onmogobi Province to help protect the Bactrian camel and the essential role it plays in the lives of the nomadic herders in the region.
It is a celebration of the way of life in the harsh Gobi and a chance for the local herders to come together as a community at what can be quite an isolating time of year. Mongolian people love a celebration and this comes across in the atmosphere. It’s an entertaining two days of events that feature various contests including camel races, camel polo competitions even a camel beauty pageant (although the criteria for the winning camel is never clearly announced or explained).
There is also a traditional ankle bone (knucklebone) shooting competition which is much more exciting than this short description implies. As with most Mongolian festivals, it includes an evening concert of traditional music and dance. Don’t get caught up in notions of authenticity – Mongolia’s Thousand Camel Festival features a lot of local involvement. The festival draws local Mongolian spectators as well as westerners and the locals are always more enthusiastic. It often feels like a party for locals, thrown by locals.
There are approximately 472,934 domestic Bactrian camels in Mongolia in 2020 (the total livestock population is approximately 67 million. The Bactrian camel (Camelus bactrianus) has two humps, in contrast to the single-humped dromedary camel. Bactrian camels have served as pack animals in Mongolia for centuries such as on The Tea Road because of their tolerance for high altitude, cold, and also drought conditions. Their pale colour is better for reflecting the sun’s rays during the extreme heat of the summer months in the Gobi Desert and they have thin stomach hair – which lets the heat escape from their body. Look closely and you’ll see that they have two pairs of eyelashes that are extra long – designed to keep out the sand. They have tough teeth for chewing the thorniest desert plants. Camels also have dry poo and concentrated pee – to help conserve water. Airag is the famous Mongolian drink from horses – fermented mare’s milk. However, herders in the desert make a similar product with camel’s milk known as khoormog.
There are also wild camels in Mongolia (Camelus Ferus). There is a world population of approximately 1000 with around 600 in the Gobi Desert in north-west China and around 450 in the Gobi Desert in Mongolia. The Wild Camel Protection Foundation (WCPF) is the only charity in the world with a specific mission to save this remarkable creature and its pristine desert environment from extinction and destruction.
If you’re interested in experiencing Mongolia’s Thousand Camel Festival with Eternal Landscapes you’ll find more details on our Winter Tours in Mongolia. We look forward to welcoming you.
Jess @ Eternal Landscapes