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A yurt is a portable, felt-covered, wood lattice-framed dwelling structure traditionally used by nomads in the steppes of Central Asia.

Etymology and synonyms

The word yurt is originally from a Turkic word referring to the imprint left in the ground by a moved yurt, and by extension, sometimes a person's homeland, kinsmen, or feudal appanage.. The term came to be used in reference to the physical tent-like dwellings only in other languages. In modern Turkish the word "yurt" is used as the synonym of homeland. In Russian the structure is called "yurta" (юрта), whence the word came into English.

The Kazakh word used for yurt is киіз үй (transliterated: kïiz üy), and means "felt house". The Kyrgyz term is боз үй (transliterated: boz üy), meaning "grey house", because of the colour of the felt. In Turkmen the term is both ak öý and gara öý, literally "white house" and "black house", depending on its luxury and elegance. In Mongolian it is called a ger ( ). Afghans call them "Kherga"/"Jirga" or "ooee". In Pakistanmarker it is also known as gher (گھر). In Hindi, it is called ghar (घर), which means home. In Persian yurt is called xeyme (خیمه), in Tajik the names are yurt, xona-i siyoh, xayma (юрт, хонаи сиёҳ, хайма).


A Mongolian yurt
Traditional yurts consist of a circular wooden frame carrying a felt cover. The felt is made from the wool of the flocks of sheep that accompany the pastoralists. The timber to make the external structure is not to be found on the treeless steppes, and must be obtained by trade in the valleys below.

The frame consists of one or more lattice wall-sections, a door-frame, roof poles and a crown. Some styles of yurt have one or more columns to support the crown. The (self-supporting) wood frame is covered with pieces of felt. Depending on availability, the felt is additionally covered with canvas and/or sun-covers. The frame is held together with one or more ropes or ribbons. The structure is kept under compression by the weight of the covers, sometimes supplemented by a heavy weight hung from the center of the roof. They vary regionally, with straight or bent roof-poles, different sizes, and relative weight.

A yurt is designed to be dismantled and the parts carried on camels or yaks to be rebuilt on another site.

Image:Montage d'une yourte murs.jpg|Mongolian yurt: starting with walls and doorImage:Yurt-construction-1.JPG|Mongolian yurt: starting to place roof polesImage:Yurt-construction-2.JPG|Mongolian yurt: with roof poles in placeImage:Yurt-construction-3.JPG|Mongolian yurt: placing the thin inner cover on the roofImage:Yurt-construction-4.JPG|Mongolian yurt: adding felt coverImage:Yurt-construction-5.JPG|Mongolian yurt: adding the outer coverImage:Yurt-construction-6 (final).JPG|Mongolian yurt: tying off the covers and completing the structure


Image:Shangrak.JPG|shangyrakImage:Coat of arms of Kazakhstan.svg|Kazakh coat of armsImage:Flag of Kyrgyzstan.svg|Kyrgyz flag

The wooden crown of the yurt ( , ; , ; , ; ) is itself emblematic in many Central Asian cultures. In old Kazakhmarker communities, the yurt itself would often be repaired and rebuilt, but the shangrak would remain intact, passed from father to son upon the father's death. A family's length of heritage could be measured by the accumulation of stains on the shangrak from decades of smoke passing through it. A stylized version of the crown is in the center of the coat of arms of Kazakhstan, and forms the main image on the flag of Kyrgyzstan.

Today the yurt is seen as a nationalistic symbol among many Central Asian groups, and as such, yurts may be used as cafés (especially those specialising in traditional food), museums (especially relating to national culture), and souvenir shops.

Western yurts

Enthusiasts in other countries have taken the visual idea of the yurt—a round, semi-permanent tent—and have adapted it to their cultural needs. Although those structures may be copied to some extent from the originals found in Central Asia, they often have some different features in their design that adapt them to different climate and use.

In the United Statesmarker and Canadamarker, yurts are made using hi-tech materials. They are highly engineered and built for extreme weather conditions. In addition, erecting one can take days and they are not intended to be moved often. These North American yurts are better named yurt derivations, as they are no longer round felt homes that are easy to mount, dismount and transport. North American yurts and yurt derivations were pioneered by William Coperthwaite in the 1960s, after he was inspired to build them by an article about Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas's visit to Mongolia.

In Europe, a closer approximation to the Mongolian and Central Asian yurt is in production in several countries. These tents use local hardwood, and often are adapted for a wetter climate with steeper roof profiles and waterproof canvas. In essence they are yurts, but some lack the felt cover that is present in traditional yurt.

Different groups and individuals use yurts for a variety of purposes, from full-time housing to school rooms. In some provincial parks in Canada, and state parks in several US states, permanent yurts are available for camping.

The Hexayurt project has released a set of designs, for yurts built from cheap construction materials, into the public domain. The intended uses are for camping and similar uses, and also for providing extremely low cost housing for disaster relief efforts.

See also


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