Eagle Festival, intangible cultural heritage of Mongolia

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                                                                     The Mongolian Government declared 2023 to 2025 the “Years to Visit Mongolia”. In accordance, the 19th “Eagle Festival” was held at the “Chinggis Khan Range” tourist complex in cooperation with the Tourism Department of Ulaanbaatar city , the Mongolian Eagle Association NGO, and the “Chinggis Khan Range” tourist complex on March 4 and 5.

The festival was attended by the 19 best eagle hunters, 17 of whom  came from Bayan-Ulgii Province, and 2 eagle hunters attended from Tuv and Selenge provinces. On this occasion, there was a parade with an eagle, an eagle hunting (artificial bait) catching competition, a competition for how well an eagle was trained, and a Kazakh national game (kökbar-tulam grabbing, coin picking competition). Also, there was a horseman show, a falconry show, a camel ride, a photo shoot with an eagle and a camel, a 360-camera photo shoot, a Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) sale, a fire festival, and a round dance entertainment.

In anticipation of the spring season and Nauryz holiday, the purpose of the event is to promote the traditions, heritage, and unique culture of the Kazakh nation, pass it on to the youth, attract foreign and domestic tourists, and ensure that citizens of the capital spend their leisure time properly. The opening of the festival was attended by a Member of Parliament, Head of the Local Council of Bayan-Ulgii Province T.Aubakir, Head of Culture and Arts Department K.Bekzhan, Head of the Ulaanbaatar City Tourism Department D.Batsukh.

N.Batsukh said, “This year’s ‘Eagle festival’ is held on a large scale. Previously, 14 to 15 eagle hunters from all soums of Bayan-Ulgii Province participated, but this year 3 provinces’ 19 eagle hunters are participating. This year, even as participants, SMEs, and heritage carriers are actively participating. More spectators, foreign guests, and tourists have come than in previous years.”

Thencientt Mongolian culture of bird hunting and horse archery has been forgotten over time. B.Boldbaatar founded “Mongolian Poultry Association” and “Mongolian National Horse Archery Association” intending to restore this forgotten heritage culture.  He said “We are participating in the ‘Eagle Festival’ for the 11th year in a row. At first, we used to show archery from a horse, but it has been enriched, and now we are showing our guests and tourists the heritage culture such as grabbing prey from a horse, breaking a bone and snatching a horse.”

Carla St Louis, a tourist who came to watch the Eagle Festival, said, “I am a citizen of England. I have been living in Ulaanbaatar with my 2 children for a year and a half. I came to this festival because of my work. But it’s amazing. The flying of the eagle, the riding of the eaglet, and the hunting with the eagles were a pleasure to watch. I want to be in Mongolia with my family as long as possible.”

Dong Hee Chun, a tourist from Korea, said, “I have been attending this festival for over 10 years. The traditional culture of the nation must be preserved by us as human beings. No matter how advanced human civilization is, we must respect nature. Humans who destroy the environment should be humble and strive for natural restoration. Also, the nomadic culture was global. Nomads are a part of human history. There are only a handful of pure eagle hunters left in the world. We must respect them.”

It is believed that the tradition of eagle hunting originated among Central Asian nomads 6,000 years ago and has been preserved until now, and Mongolia is one of the few countries that have best preserved this tradition. Therefore, to promote this heritage with a rich history to the world and increase the flow of tourists, the “Eagle Festival” event is held twice a year, every spring on March 4 and 5 in Ulaanbaatar, and in autumn in Bayan-Ulgii Province on the first 7th of October. In 2010, the traditional ritual of hunting with eagles was officially registered in UNESCO’s “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity”.

Dashmaa D