Genghis Khan and the New Mongolia
Travel Blog • Eva Holland • 08.23.10 | 4:03 PM ET
The Atlantic has a dispatch from Bill Donahue, who’s been traveling in a changing Mongolia. As Donahue explains, the long-dead warlord is central to the country’s new commercial efforts:
Genghis Khan is Mongolia’s future. After his conquests were downplayed in the history books during seven decades of de facto Soviet rule, the nomad who ruled an empire stretching from the Caspian Sea to Siberia reemerged in 1990, as democracy was being established. Today, he is a poor nation’s avatar of hope—and he’s becoming a major industry.
In Ulaanbaatar, you can drink Chinggis beer at the Grand Khaan Irish Pub. (For obscure reasons, the local spelling differs from the Western.) The Genco Tour Bureau, an Ulaanbaatar-based company, has spent about $7 million on the Chinggis Khaan Statue Complex, a commercially minded homage where the giant steel Chinggis will soon be flanked by an artificial pond, a skating rink, and 200 small gers, or round tents, for paying campers. Nearby, Genco has also built a 13th-century living history museum, sort of a Colonial Williamsburg on the steppes, where artisans make felt by beating wool with wood sticks. And at the Chinggis Khaan Golf Country Club, the greens are tiny, bright patches of artificial turf on the infinite brown.
With a poignant hopefulness, Mongolia, population 2.7 million, is trying to establish a market economy in the deep shadow of neighboring China.