When I was a young man, probably 15 or 16 I was given a series of books about the life of Genghis Khan. I devoured them and tried to imagine myself living on Genghis era. I will talk a bit more about this in the Brief history of Mongolia section.
Genghis was my hero and when I had to join the army and were faced with fighting a war I studied the tactics used by Genghis and Sun Tzu trying to learn as much as possible from these masters of warfare.
Genghis with and army of little more than 200,000 warriors and a nation of less than 900,000 people conquered the biggest empire mankind ever seen. Genghis was condemned throughout most of history for the brutality of his campaigns.
While it’s impossible to know for sure how many people perished during the Mongol conquests, many historians put the number at somewhere around 40 million, almost as many as the 50 million of the Second World War 750 years later. It is estimated that the Mongols’ attacks may have reduced the entire world population by as much as 11 percent.
The other side of the coin show that he unified warring factions that had the Mongol tribes fighting amongst themselves since the dawn of time, brought peace and security to 5000 miles of trade routes, modernized Mongolian culture, embraced religious freedom and helped open contact between East and West.
While alive Genghis was never challenged but after his death the empire started crumbling.
This in itself told me how big a leader Genghis was and that I could learn a lot about him. However all my impressions where from books written by non-Mongol authors and very little from the media.
When Rio Tinto asked me if I was interested in helping them at Oyu Tolgoi (OT, Mongolian for Turquoise Hill), a copper and gold mine they own in partnership with Mongolian Government, I jumped at the opportunity.
In this section of my website I will try to convey my observations from twelve weeks at Oyu Tolgoi mine site, eight short visits to the capital Ulaanbaatar and my impressions from the contact I had with the wonderful people of Mongolia.
Travel and first impressions