Papal entourage welcomed to Mongolia with traditional festival

As Pope Francis rested after his arrival in Ulaanbaatar, the papal entourage was treated to a traditional Mongolian festival, with the Foreign Minister expressing her gratitude for the Pope’s Apostolic Visit.

By Salvatore Cernuzio & Franco Piroli – Ulaanbaatar

Music featuring the sitar, Khöömei—which involves harmonic chants accompanied by guttural sounds—traditional folk dances, Bok wrestling (a blend of sumo and wrestling), an equestrian carousel showcasing acrobatics performed on the numerous horses that populate the steppes, and mesmerizing contortionist acts.

These various aspects featured in the captivating spectacle on display at a Besreg Naadam, a traditional cultural festival in Mongolia.

Through art and sports competitions, the festival offers foreign visitors a profound insight into the roots of Central Asian culture.

Images from the Besreg Naadam
Images from the Besreg Naadam

Unique glimpse into Mongolian culture

The papal entourage, which includes over 70 journalists and various Vatican officials, was treated to a Besreg Naadam on Friday, as Pope Francis rested after the long flight from Rome on the first day of his Apostolic Journey to Mongolia.

The event took place forty kilometers from the capital Ulaanbaatar, and members of the papal entourage were treated to these extraordinary moments of art and history.

Amidst ancient masks, dancers, musicians, camels, and horses, they experienced this spectacle in the afternoon.

All of this took place against the breathtaking backdrop of lush green valleys punctuated by the distinctive gers, the traditional tents of nomadic herdsmen.

Images from the Besreg Naadam
Images from the Besreg Naadam

Gratitude for papal visit

Local authorities arranged this event especially for the Pope's entourage, represented in person by Ms. Batmunkh Battsetseg, Mongolia’s Foreign Minister who welcomed the Pope at the airport earlier in the day.

In her address to those present on Friday, she expressed her gratitude to Pope Francis for his visit and extended her appreciation to all those present for their willingness to explore the heart of Mongolian culture.

Participants were treated to a buffet featuring typical Mongolian products, primarily meat sourced from local herdsmen and snacks of dried yogurt—a traditional dish that was also presented to the Pope earlier in the day.

The event also included moments of entertainment such as archery and captivating performances like the folkloric dance of Bii Biyelgee and "The Horses Show," a display of horseback acrobatics performed by young men and women dressed in traditional attire.

(text by Salvatore Cernuzio; video by Franco Piroli)

Images from the Besreg Naadam
Images from the Besreg Naadam

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01 September 2023, 22:00