Setting the Scene
The main street of the black market (black market as in a regular market but Mongolians call it the “black market”) in Arvaikheer has buildings on both sides selling all types of products from foods (vegetables, meat, fruits, dairy) to spices, clothes, shoes, technology, and stationary. Yet as you walk behind the market, you find yourself in an area more similar to an open-air flea market, selling hats, pants, and bags outside. Even further back, you see this scene: the ger market. This portion of the black market focuses on supplies for gers (with a subsection for equine tack like Mongolian saddles, bridles, and halters). While it’s not quite as much of a bustling scene as the main road, the options are overwhelming and beautiful.
Many Mongolians still live in gers (the Mongolian equivalent of yurts). Even in the cities, gers are extremely common; hence, the term “ger districts”. Especially in the countryside, you might see one maybe two gers in the middle of the steppe surrounded by horses, sheep, or goats. Gers are made up of walls known as хана (khana), a base (either cement or wood for slightly more permanent gers rather than just the ground), 80 ceiling poles known as унь (own), two center poles known as багана (bagna), and various felt layers on the outside for insulation. Various parts of the ger including poles and the felt layers are held together using ropes. Once the ger is built, the many ornamental furnishings are brought in: small stools, tables, a bed, a dry sink, and chests (all typically orange with other bright colors and quantities depend on the number of inhabitants). All these can be found at the Arvaikheer market. The surprising aspect of building a ger is that there is no “build your own ger” kit in existence. Parts of the ger are bought from various craftsmen. The same is true of the furniture. All these parts and furniture can be bought in the market in Arvaikheer. Try to see what you can spot in the picture!