By Amber Barger, KF13, Mongolia

Mongolia is known for its vast amount of open space and beautiful scenery. The population density of Mongolia is just over 1 person per square kilometer. In this post, I’ll share photos from the most rural of businesses to the most urban.

The term “countryside” can be translated into “khuudoo” in Mongolian language. However, the meaning of the word is slightly different in English and Mongolian. The term khuudoo in Mongolian is relative to where you are from in the country and where you are when you say the word. If you are based in Ulaanbaatar, the capital city, a person usually thinks of anyplace outside of the capital as the khuudoo. If a person lives in a provincial capital, when this person says the word khuudoo, they usually are referring to anything more rural than where they are at the time, like a village or open field.

If a person is based in a village or “soum” and says khuudoo, the person is talking about the vast countryside of open fields. A soum is the Mongolian word for a village of about 3,000-7,000 citizens.

The term khuudoo comes up in conversations about vacations, where a person was born, and general traveling.

PASTURE AREA BUSINESSES – Herders, roadside cafes, and tire repair shops

Herding ger in Omnogovi Province

Herding ger in Omnogovi Province

A herder is the most rural of businesses in Mongolia. The herder lives with his or her family in the open pasture with the family’s herd of animals.

Cafe truck stop in the pasture

Cafe truck stop in the pasture - Govi-Altai province

Along the roadside, cafes and tire repair shops are housed within gers. Weary travelers can stop to eat a hot meal and repair their busted tires.

SOUM/VILLAGE BUSINESSES:

Hotel in Bat-Ulzii Soum - Outside View

Hotel in Bat-Ulzii Soum - Outside View

The hotel is located on the second floor with a food store and cafe on the first floor.

Hotel in Bat-Ulzii Soum - Inside view

Hotel in Bat-Ulzii Soum - Inside view

This hotel, and many in soums, don’t have running water. The guest may use the outhouse down the stairs and in the backyard. To bathe the guest can request a bucket of hot water.

Supermarket in Uuyunga Soum - Outside View

Supermarket in Uuyunga Soum - Outside View

Supermarket in Uuyunga Soum - Inside View

Supermarket in Uuyunga Soum - Inside View

This supermarket has two aisles of food and toiletry items for sale. About 25 % of the goods for sale are varieties of vodka and candy.

Jewelry shop in Bat-Ulzii Soum - Outside View

Jewelry shop in Bat-Ulzii Soum - Outside View

Jewelry shop in Bat-Ulzii Soum - Inside View

Jewelry shop in Bat-Ulzii Soum - Inside View

PROVINCIAL CENTER BUSINESSES:

Main road of the market in Arvaikheer, Uvurkhangai province

Main road of the market in Arvaikheer, Uvurkhangai province

An outside clothing stall in a metal container - Arvaikheer, Uvurkhangai

An outside clothing stall in a metal container - Arvaikheer, Uvurkhangai

Buildings with many small businesses inside - Bayankhongor, Bayankhongor province

Buildings with many small businesses inside - Bayankhongor, Bayankhongor province

Brick houses with a food shop on the bottom floor and apartment on the second floor

Brick houses with a food shop on the bottom floor and apartment on the second floor

A new indoor market in Bayankhongor, Bayankhongor province

A new indoor market in Bayankhongor, Bayankhongor province

ULAANBAATAR SMALL BUSINESSES:

Narantuul Outdoor Market - Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Narantuul Outdoor Market - Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Small shops and taxis on Peace Avenue - Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Small shops and taxis on Peace Avenue - Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Meat vendor at an indoor market - Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Meat vendor at an indoor market - Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Roadside fuel vendor in ger district - Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Roadside fuel vendor in ger district - Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

As you can see from the photos, the small businesses at the provincial capital and country capital levels look a lot alike. There are many cafes, food stores, clothing shops, and small electronics stalls that are run on a micro scale. The small businesses in the countryside and the city are very similar by appearance and how they are managed, in my opinion. In the countryside, the small businesses make up most of the economy. Provincial centers have a small percentage of medium-sized businesses.

In Ulaanbaatar, there are thousands of small family-owned businesses, but also many medium and large businesses. Darkhan and Erdenet are sometimes categorized as cities, but sometimes the khuudoo, depending on the context.

ULAANBAATAR LARGE BUSINESSES:

Nomin State Department Store - Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Nomin State Department Store - Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Louis Vuitton at Central Tower - Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Louis Vuitton at Central Tower - Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Please lend to an entrepreneur in Mongolia through XacBank and Credit Mongol, LLC.

Amber Barger is currently serving as a Kiva Fellow in Mongolia. She has lived for the past two years in rural Mongolia as a community economic development Peace Corps Volunteer. Along with her Kiva Fellowship, she is extending a third year with the Peace Corps as a Peace Corps Volunteer Leader.


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