Karakorum was founded by Gengis Khan in 1220 as the capital of his Mongolian Empire. In its heyday it was a multi-cultural and cosmopolitan place, visited by traders from all over the world and surrounded by walls with four large gates, each with its own market. The centrepiece of the city was the Palace of Worldly Peace and there was a huge silver fountain that dispensed airag, wine and rice wine and designed by a captured Parisian jeweller. There is almost nothing left of the great city today, but the Erdene Zuu monastery was built with bricks from the ruins of the ancient city in 1586. There even stands a stone from the ancient city with Arabic script and turtle statues, which are said to be the guardians of the ancient city. The monastery was destroyed in the 1930s but the outer walls and large temples remain and it is now a functioning monastery.
Mongolia is a vast country with
spectacular natural beauty, largely
untouched by the...