One of the world’s most practically and attractively designed habitations: The Mongolian yurt, or ger as it is known in Mongolia itself, has been used for thousands of years by the nomads of Central Asia and is still a common sight in many countries in the region.
With its unique design, structure and practical features, the yurt is still a popular habitation. Mongolian yurts (ger) are attracting interest from people in many parts of the world as an ecologically friendly and attractive living space that can be used for a variety of purposes.
The terms yurt and ger are interchangeable and describe the traditional portable Mongolian habitation consisting of a wooden frame and felt walls.
Yurts (gers) are designed to be easy to take apart, transport, and reconstruct. Despite this portability, they are warm enough to keep the coldest winter temperatures at bay and strong enough to withstand strong winds and the demands of a whole family.
The yurt (ger) is a circular structure built using a wooden, accordion frame that can be easily taken down, made compact for carrying, and reassembled. On this frame are placed three to four layers of felt, traditionally made from sheep’s wool, and an outer layer of waterproof canvas. The felt and canvas are secured to the wooden frame and the resulting structure can stand securely in one place for months or even years at a time.
The wooden frame of the yurt (ger) is held together by opposing stresses designed into the structure and by horse, yak and camel hair straps. A central column holds up the struts of the roof, which fan out from an opening that accommodates a stove pipe and can be opened up to the elements on a warm day or covered in the event of rain or cold temperatures. The lower sides of the outer wrapping of the yurt can also be raised to allow air to circulate freely to cool the interior on warm days.
What are yurts (gers) used for?
If you have been to Mongolia, you will surely already have an idea of how you wish to use a yurt. However, we would like to provide some ideas on how a yurt (ger) might contribute to your lifestyle for those who do not have this experience. Although nomads in Mongolia use yurts all year round in temperatures as low as -35 and as high as +40 degrees Celsius, we recommend using yurts (gers) in temperatures between about -10 and +30 degrees Celsius as it takes special care and expertise to keep the interior of a yurt warm during conditions colder than -10 degrees Celcius.
A yurt provides not only the atmosphere of a nomadic lifestyle but has many practical and enjoyable uses for people in North America and elsewhere in the world.
Making of a yurt
Assembling a yurt can be quite tricky on your first try. However, after you have done it once, it is something you can do in less than an hour. It is better to have two or three people to help with assembly of an average-sized yurt. For a yurt of ten or more wall segments you will need more people. For yurts with four wall segments, two people will be enough.
1. Choose an area of flat ground slightly larger than the floor area of your yurt and as dry as possible. It is particularly important to choose a flat piece of ground if you are assembling a large yurt. For smaller yurts, including travel yurts, the ground does not have to be perfectly flat. If you are going to keep your yurt assembled for only a short period, try to choose a spot that is slightly elevated so that rainwater will be deflected. If you are going to keep your yurt assembled outside permanently, it is better to prepare the ground in advance. You may prepare an elevated base for your yurt, for example, by pouring cement or making a wooden floor.
2. Unfold the lattice walls and interlock them to form a circle. Leave an open space for the door, making sure that this opening is the same size as the door and is located where you wish the door to be.
3. Fasten the joints of the walls using shorter ropes supplied.
4. Place the door in the space left for it and tie it to the walls.
5. Adjust the height of the walls so they are at the same level as the top of the door. In doing so, make sure that the walls form an exact circle. The upper edge of the walls should all be at the same level.
6. Using two of the long straps supplied, encircle the walls to lash them into place. One of the straps should be placed about one-quarter of the way up the wall from the bottom and the other about three-quarters of the way up the wall. Make sure these straps are tight enough to allow the yurt to maintain its round shape and for the walls to stay at the same level as the top of the door.
7. Put the crown inside the wall circle upside down and attach the two pillars tightly. You will need two or three people to do this for an average-sized yurt. Attach one pillar first and then, as someone holds the pillar that has already been attached, attach the other. If you are building a four-wall segment yurt, which does not require pillars, you can skip this step.
8. Raise the crown and pillars and set them carefully in the middle of the circle created by the outer wall. Leave one or two person(s) inside the wall circle to keep the set stable while you are connecting the walls and the crown with the rafters. If you are erecting a four-wall segment yurt, which does not require pillars, just ask the other person to raise the crown above his head while you are connecting the crown and the wall.
9. Attach the rafters. Start attaching from opposite sides of the circle so that the crown will not be tilted to one side. The narrow end of the rafters should be put into the holes for this purpose found in the crown and the thicker end should be attached to the walls with the loop in the rafters. In this step please be careful that you are connecting the appropriate hole in the crown to a corresponding point on the wall. The connected rafters should look straight; the easiest way to achieve this is to begin with the rafters above the door. The rafters that connect the door top and the crown do not have a loop at the thicker end of the rafter. Instead of the loop the end of the rafter is shaped so that it fits into the mortise on the top of the door. Connect first the mortise in the right middle of the door top to the corresponding hole in the crown and next connect the crown hole and the point at the top of the wall directly opposite the first rafter. When you have attached enough rafters to support the crown, the person(s) holding the crown and the upright supporting set (or the crown in the case of yurts of four wall segments) can help with placing the remaining rafters. Connect all the rafters.
10. Now that you have erected mainframe of your yurt, you can start dressing it. First tie the inside white cotton canvas to the top of the wall and the crown using the straps attached.
11. Next, take the rectangular sheep-wool felt segments and put them in place, overlapping them slightly and securing them by using the long straps attached to the felt segments.
12. Next, attach the two semicircular felt segments to the roof beginning with the one that is cut to fit around the crown, which goes over the side of the yurt on which the door is found. Overlap this with the second felt roof segment, which goes over the side of the yurt opposite the door.
13. Next, place the waterproof canvas sheets on the yurt. Overlap the sheets slightly where they meet. As with the felt roof segments, there are two semicircular waterproof canvas sheets, one with a space left for the crown that goes over the side of the yurt with the door.
14. Put the outside cotton canvas on and tie it to the crown and bottom of the walls.
15. Wrap the three long straps provided around the entire yurt. One strap goes around the top of the wall and one around the bottom. The third one goes around the middle of the wall. Fix the ends of the straps to the rings attached to the doorframe.
16. Put the crown sleeve on and fix it to the outer straps and the bottom of the walls using the straps attached to the crown sleeve.