How to Build a Yurt

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A yurt, or ger (rhymes with "hair"), is a round dwelling used by Mongolian nomads on the steppes of central Asia. Designed to collapse small enough to fit on a draft animal and set up in half an hour, it insulates its inhabitants from both heat and cold. The ger uses felted wool, while modern yurts use canvas or wood, often at the cost of portability or ease of set up.

Things You'll Need

  • Wooden lattice wall frames (khana, qana, from 4 to 20 according to yurt size)
  • Roof poles (20 to 250, according to yurt size)
  • Central support poles (bagana, from none to 14)
  • Ties/fasteners
  • Wooden or felt door and frame
  • Roof ring/crown (toghona)
  • Roof poles (uni)
  • Felt (isegei) or canvas

Beginning Construction

  • Obtain one or more wooden lattice wall frames (khana). These will determine how large the yurt will be. Usually, yurts have between four and 20 khana.

  • Erect the central support poles (bagana), if you have them. Smaller yurts do not require central support, while larger ones do.

  • Place the roof ring (toghona) on top of the support poles. Skip this step if your yurt does not require bagana.

Raising the Walls

  • Expand the khana and arrange them in a circular fashion.

  • Bind together the khana ends, except for the two ends at the doorway, where the door itself will be fastened. Typically, khana are tied together with 13 fastenings, as that number is significant to yurt-dwelling nomads.

  • Place the door frame between the ends of two khana and bind it in place.

Raising the Roof and Completing

  • Lay the roof poles (uni) on the top of the lattice work, at the apex of each lattice, with the shaved or slotted end pointed toward the center. Tie them to the lattice and raise the center-pointing ends above it.

  • Hook each roof pole into the latticed roof ring/crown (toghona). The tension of the roof poles between the toghona and khana, and the tension maintained by the khana themselves will keep the structure standing.

  • Cover the structure with layers of felt or canvas; the colder the weather, the more layers.

  • Tie the layers in place with ropes.

Tips & Warnings

  • The center of the yurt should normally be left relatively open to allow for ventilation. In bad weather, however, it should be covered with a piece of hide or felt. This is called an eruke.
  • When entering a nomad's yurt, cross the threshold without stepping on it. To do so is considered desecrating the spirit of the house.

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