You may have seen a yurt and not known what the circular tent was called. Originally the dwellings for nomad herders in Central Asia, they are now popping up in back yards and campgrounds across North America.
Also known as a ger, the yurt is a practical form of housing used in Mongolia, Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan for hundreds of years by nomadic people. They require grazing land for their sheep, so they must uproot their homes and move to greener pastures whenever the grasses in one area have been cropped to the ground. The yurt can be disassembled, loaded onto a horse, camel or yak, transported to fresh grazing land, and set up again in a timely manner.
Constructed of felted wool on a wooden lattice frame, the yurt’s roof is supported by poles. Some of these round shaped tents may also have walls that are covered with canvas, which helps protect against foul weather. The design is easy to insulate to keep out the winter cold and on hot summer days the wall coverings may be rolled up to allow a cooling breeze to blow through.
Partly because of the above practical reasons, and partly because of their appealing shape, yurts have recently become popular in Europe, the USA and Canada. One may often find them being used as spaces for yoga exercising, meditation, as art studios, bodywork and aromatherapy rooms, and other purposes of a New Age or spiritual nature. People who promote yurts say they are not only economical and environmentally responsible to build, but they also have an intangible aura that makes them feel like special places. It has even been suggested that their absence of corners and sharp angles makes it impossible for evil spirits or negative energy to hide inside.
First adopted in the Pacific Northwest areas of Washington, Oregon and Northern California, yurts as unique accommodations have moved east through the mountain and plains states to the Atlantic coast. Many state campgrounds now offer yurts for rent to campers on vacation. While some of them are no-frills tents without any amenities, others come stocked like round hotel rooms with hot and cold running water, electricity, and even wireless internet connectivity.
The popularity of yurts in the western world has even spread back to their area of origin. Now there are some adventure tourism operators in Mongolia who offer fully equipped yurts as housing for travelers from around the world who want to experience the traditional dwellings as they learn about local culture.