Mongolia | Ulaan Baatar | Tsagaan Sar 2007
The first day of Tsagaan Sar (White Month), the Mongolian New Year celebration, was on Sunday, February 18. Two years ago I had gotten up in the early pre-dawn hours and went out to Dambadarjaa Monastery in the suburb of Dambadarjaa, north of Ulaan Baatar proper, to Greet the Dawn at the Ovoo on Zonkov Uul. This year I went to Khiimoryn Ovoo, on the northern flanks of Bogd Khaan Uul, just to the west of the Zaisan Valley. This is a men-only ovoo; no women are allowed to go there, at least not on Tsagaan Sar. I went with my neighbor Ganaa and two of his friends. The actual moment of the New Moon was at 12:16 a.m. on the morning of the 18th. The official sunrise for Ulaan Baatar was at 7:55. We arrived at the base of the Khiimoryn Ovoo at about 6:30 to discover an immense traffic jam of several hundred cars jockeying for position in the parking lot. There was fee to visit the ovoo: 300 tögrögs for Mongolians and 3000 tögrögs for foreigners. Ganaa complained and got me in for 300 tögrögs. The climb to the ovoo is about 1000 vertical feet.
The sun actually rose over the eastern flanks of Bogd Khan Uul at 8:08. Another one of Ganaa’s friends who made the climb with us
That evening I attended a dinner party. I did not mention that I had been to Khiimoryn Ovoo that morning. Someone said that they had heard a rumor that “many foreign people dressed in deels” had been at Khiimoryn Ovoo at sunrise that day. I was there, and I was wearing my winter deel, but at the time I was struck by the fact that I appeared to be the only foreigner present. If there had been any others I think I would have noticed them. I could not help but wonder if I myself had been conflated via rumor into “many foreign people dressed in deels.”