Gers Pop “UB” in Mongolian Capital: What do you do with a traditional tent city?

UB Ger Dt
Photo from

In a country famously known for its nomadic lifestyle to this day, it’s hard to imagine what its big city would look like in the 21st century. In Mongolia, Ulaanbataar is getting a modern makeover as it matures in its post-Soviet days and glistening towers shoot up, accommodating the settled urbanites and foreigners temporarily settled in the Central Asia capital, in housing that greatly contradicts the traditional Mongolian ger, or yurt. The ger is the original pop-up and to this days most Mongolians live in them, so it would come as no surprise then, that the outskirts of Ulaanbataar are not just arrival cities but literally tent cities. But the twist in Ulaanbataar is that despite the growth of apartment buildings in the city, many settled people choose to live in the ger district — and the local government doesn’t like that.

The Guardian posted a great article looking at how traditional housing and arrival cities fits into new vision for Ulaanbataar, a city of 1.5 million people, of which 800,000 live in the ger district. Despite the growth that urban Mongolia has seen recently, the urban-rural divide is widening. And while many people have moved to UB, as the city is nicknamed, to find economic opportunities in the young country, they don’t shed their rural ways but instead bring them with them, livestock and all. The ger district is slated for private development of highrise apartments for 70,000 people, and infrastructure has been greatly development in the past decade; there is even talk of an underground transit system.

Doug doesn’t visit Ulaanbataar in Arrival City, and it is a city that is slowly gaining attention in the urbanism world, but it presents an interesting challenge that seems unique. Can you think of another city with a similar issue?

Here are a few more stories on the gers of UB:

Mongolia Puts Ger Shantytowns on the Map

Inside Mongolia’s Ger District

Mapping Ulaanbataar’s Ger Districts

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