(Russian, from Turkish: "house, home, dwelling")

Round movable tent usually made of felt (rarely, of hide) with internal wooden skeleton, collapsible for transportation. Used by central Asian nomads, including the Mongolians (who call their yurts ger), a yurt can be taken down or erected in a matter of hours. More permanent yurts might be equipped with solid flooring.

Yurts have been home to the many tribes and cultures of central Asia for millennia. It is one of the strongest and most efficient structures ever built. The circular construction, and the integration of tension and compression components, allows the yurt to stand against heavy wind, rain, and snow with little difficulty. The circular shape makes the most internal space with the least materials. And unlike tents, all space that the yurt takes up is usable living area because there is no need for ropes and stakes to hold it down.

Here is an excellent description from http://www.pbm.com/~lindahl/articles/yurt/ :

    "The Mongolian yurt, or ger, is a round, nominally portable, self-supporting structure suitable for camping in comfort. It does not rely on ropes or stakes to hold itself up; rather, the walls, rafters, roof ring, and tensioning bands all work against each other, in a marvel of physics and engineering, to keep the structure standing."

There are several types of yurt in use around the world, mostly in Asia. The Turkic or Khazak yurt has a steam-bent wood roof and crown. The Mongol version is called a Ger, pronounced so as to rhyme with the word 'air'. The ger has straight roof poles with a heavy timber crown, supported by two upright posts, or bagana. The ger is the most common style of yurt, being home to well over half of Mongolia's population. The Mongolians use the word ger, meaning home, rather than the Russian word yurt.

Main components of a yurt :

  • Khana or Qana: The Walls.
The walls look just like giant baby gates. Small trees or laths of wood are tied or bolted together to make the criss-cross latticework. A door frame is attached to the khana, usually bolted or tied. A taunt rope or wire is threaded across the top crossings of the khana and connected to the door frame. The wire or rope forms a support for the rafters and helps to hold the circular shape. Diameters of up to 30 feet are possible without extra support.
  • Oiyn: The Rafters.
Saplings or beams of wood that are sometimes steam-bent at the lower end. Rafters have a notch that rests on the wire in the top of the khana at one end, and a wooden peg that slides into the roof ring at the other. Usually, two rafters are made specifically to attach to the top of the door frame. The rafters radiate from the roof ring like spokes in a wagon wheel. The number of rafters varies according to the size of the structure.

  • Toghona: The Roof Ring.
This ring of wood is what holds it all together. It can either be a solid ring of wooden sections pegged together, or a hoop made from layers of bent wood. The roof ring has holes at regular intervals to accept the rafter ends. Usually the middle is left open to the sky for letting in light and letting smoke out. Often there is a covering for the roof hole called an eruke.

  • Isegei : The Wall Covering.
Many types of fabric have been used in making the covering of yurts. The traditional covering is felt, but modern yurts are often made of canvas and even plastic fabrics. Depending on the environment, the wall covering could be very thin or have many layers for extra insulation. Sometimes the covering is decorated with white cloth backdrops inside, and paintings on the outside.

A few words about Yurt Etiquette:

    "There are a number of rules which guests should follow. When entering the yurt it is considered impolite to step on the threshold or to hold onto the ropes. All weapons should be left outside. Do not point your feet at or put rubbish on the fire. Do not sit with your back to the altar, whistle, write in red pen, step over older people or point a knife at anyone. One should take at least a little of any food or drink offered. When offered arak or vodka flick a small amount to the sky, the wind and the earth before drinking."


Resources and Suppliers of modern yurts :
www.pacificyurts.com
www.woodlandyurts.freeserve.co.uk
www.nbyurts.com
www.advancecanvas.com
www.chaingang.org/yurtquest/
www.pbm.com/~lindahl/articles/yurt/
The Complete Yurt Handbook by Paul King

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