We spent 2 nights in Ulanbataar, the first and the last in Mongolia and roughly a day and a half.
The firrst day we visited the National Museum and what impressed me the most was the traditional costumes in silk with so detailed embroderies.
It was a folklore festival at the soccer stadium and that was spectacular with traditional dancing in incredible costumes.
I hoped to see traditional Mongolian wrestling and that was part of the program. It was mostly pushing so how they decided who won is a mystery to me. A few times it was easy when one was thrown to the ground.
Not all were interested in what went on, it seems I was more interesting.
Mongolia is land-locked and is sparsely populated. The area is more than the double of Texas and has a total population of 3 million. 1.4 million live in the capital Ulanbataar and all together 72% live in urban areas. Which basically means that most of the country is empty. As one Mongolian woman said said after I told her we saw very little traffic: “Yes, where are the Mongolians?”
The north of the country has more mountains, forests and rivers and we visited a national park just north of Ulanbataar, so we experienced that part of the country. The rest of the trip was south and west of the capital where the landscape is very flat most of time and is first steppes, the semidesert and finally the desert Gobi. They had unusually much rain this year so the landscapes were much greener than normal.
I found very few that spoke English, but i talked to a few. I also tried body language and sign language with mixed success, except laughter and smiles. People were very friendly.
We saw very little cultivated land, so south of the capital it was grazing land, and herds of sheep, goats, cows and horses were a frequent sight. Close to the Gobi we also saw camel herds. The shepherds we saw were either riding a horse or motor bike, it was possible to ride a motor bike almost everywhere, but it was long between gas stations!.
The main roads were OK, but we were often on sideroads. Well it is streching the truth to call them roads, they were tracks and our drivers had to choose the right track as there were always choices.
Djemila is another Roman city that is very well preserved. It is from the first century AD and was first populated by Roman soldiers from Italy, but it soon became a trading center and it was populated with 20000. Caracalla rebuilt part of the city with an Arch of Triumph, a new forum and a theater i a hillside.
In the fourth century Christianity was popular and a baptistery and a basilica were built and part of the city was called Christian quarter,
Many of the houses had mosaic, but these were moved to a too small and overloaded museum. It was not allowed to take pictures inside the museum, but I took one before I was stopped.
It was plenty of details to take pictures of and here are some.
I took some pictures of people as well, some without they being aware of it, and some I asked first.
By the entrance a number of Roman head stones were put up.
As can be seen they were roughly the same size,shape and layout. But looking at them they were very different and it was very interesting to look closer at them. They should probably describe the person and I found myself trying to figure out exactly that.
The first must have been a farmer, he has a sheep. But he must also have grown grapes, may be making wine? I like to think that! The second is a more conventional farmer with both cow and sheep.
The first must be a mother with four children living on a farm. May be she had lost two children now riding on dolphins above her head? What are the two male figures holding her and her children up ? Aret hey workers on her farm? Are they relatives supporting her? The second is a couple, and they look happy as do the three faces above them.
The first is clearly a loving couple, and may be the person above their head is smiling. But the second picture is a mystery to me, a nude female on a headstone?
I really enjoyed this visit, both the historical side of it, a genuine Roman city, but also the chat with the two girls who loved me blue eyes and asked if I had a son! I said yes, and they were interested until they heard his age.
Timgad was a Roman city from the first century AD. It was probably a military camp for the legions guarding the southern border. It was planned for 15000 people but the number of inhabitants increased fast. It was abandoned around 600 AD and was discovered in 1880.
It is a good example of Roman city planning with streets, library, 14 baths, theater, forum, ramparts, layout, and arch of triumph.
Unfortunately the weather was not nice, a drizzle of rain (!) and cold, but I really enjoyed strolling up the main street up to the arch. Going through the arch I found myself talking to young girls.
We had a slight language problem as their English was only a bit better than my French, that does not say much. But we managed to communicate. They were facinated with my blue eyes, they thought blue eyes were so beautiful! I sang “Beautiful, beautiful brown eyes” to them, but I don’t think that made any impressions except giggles.
The Numidians were Berbs living in todays Algeria, part of Tunisia and part of Libya. They ruled before the Romans and when the Roman empire collapsed. Africa until the Islamization. They have left some huge mausoleums, and we saw two, one close to the capital Alger, and the other not far from Constantine.
The mausoleums were huge and I wonder how many tons of rocks the workers had to transport and lift. The one we actually visited was restored but was in rough shape. We could not go inside so we just went around it.
We met a few animals in the desert. Most of them were domestic, like goats and mules.
What they found to eat is difficult to understand.
I am not sure about the camels we saw if someone owned them or if they were wild.
I saw a few lizards, but they moved so fast I was not able to take pictures of them. But a beetle was more cooperative.