If the descendants of ancient legends truly exist among us today, these are they. Despite the odds, the nomads of Outer Mongolia are a people seemingly immune from degeneration, still living in such proximity to wild animals with a certain spiritual wisdom, sense of healing and well-being lost to our notions of time and laws of civilization. The ancient Greek poet Pindar once described a perfect land called Hyperborea, beyond the great wind in the Altai Mountains of Central Asia, where the sun always shone, where a race of healers lived with “neither disease not bitter old age is mixed … in their sacred blood; far from labor and battle…”
Photographer Hamid Sardar-Afkhami is a scholar in Mongolian and Tibetan languages, with a Phd from Harvard. After living in Tibet and exploring the Himalayan regions for more than a decade, Hamid began taking annual expeditions into the Mongolian outback to document a country where a majority of the population are still nomad.
The people of the Mongolian Taïga share, but do not dominate their otherworldly landscapes inhabited by reindeer, bear, horses, eagles and wolves. They breed a docile reindeer and don’t kill them for meat unless it becomes useless for other purposes. They ride them into the deep snowy forests to hunt for food and collect antlers they can sell to nearby villages for basic supplies.
Their spiritual connection with animals extends beyond keeping company with just the reindeer of their dreamscapes, but with the wolves too, the eagles and even the bears.
Eagle hunting in Mongolia is an old tradition that has passed from generation to generation, but very few people are left on the Earth who still deserve the title. Eagles Hunters tame eagles and use them for hunting smaller animals, such as foxes and marmots. It is not merely a title to them, but a way of life.
Discover more of Hamid Sardar-Afkhami’s work.