A Glimpse of Ulaanbaatar

Although vast portions of its land area are occupied by the steppes, the Gobi Desert, and mountainous forests; Mongolia‘s landscape is not totally rural.  This exotic land is dotted everywhere by small towns called soums and several cities, the biggest of which is Ulaanbaatar (or Ulan Bator), the country’s capital.  In fact, some experts estimate that around half of the Mongolian population of around 3 million people now reside in Ulaanbaatar and other major cities.  Mongolia’s transition from a socialist system to a free market economy after the collapse of the Soviet Union seemed to have sent herders and rural folks flocking into the cities and urban centers.  While this massive migration has caused a bunch of social problems; the Mongolian economy has performed exceedingly well in recent years.  The recent boom in mining industry (mainly gold and copper) has replaced Mongolia’s dependence on its traditional livestock industry and, according to some estimates, is poised to propel the country to becoming the 4th fastest growing economy in the world!  While this is mainly good news, this is expected to have adverse implications on nomadic herding and the traditional Mongolian lifestyle I’ve been writing about.

More than 90 percent of my time in Mongolia has been spent in Ulaanbaatar where work precedes hobby and where my camera was confined to my hotel room’s vault most of the time.  Nevertheless, through several visits over many years, I was able to capture a small glimpse of the capital city through  the photos below.

Changing skyline: Modern buildings have started rising over Ulaanbaatar's landscape in recent years

Sukhbaatar Square: A high-rise building towers over Sukhbaatar's monument

The Government Palace: Erased from history books during the Soviet era, Genghis Khan (sitting statue at the center) has retaken a prominent seat in Mongolian history and culture

International clubs and restos can now be found everywhere

Traces of old and new: An airline ad dominates the background of a Soviet era monument

Construction Boom: With Genghis Khan's figure at the background, Ulaanbaatar's skyline continues to evolve

Rural to urban: And the migrants continue to arrive and occupy the rapidly-growing "Ger Districts" around the city