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Inside the Turkish camel wrestling festival

The arena was filled with boisterous spectators who were in tiered seats surrounding the wrestling pit below. Camels were flocked in and out of the ring. Wear the best regalia An elaborate saddle bearing the name, origin, and trainer or owner.

The annual camel wrestling festival near Selcuk takes place in mid-January on Turkey’s Aegean coast. almost overpowering the feeling When I attended an event in 2017, sausages sizzle on the stalls surrounding the stadium. An old man smokes a chain while sipping beer or rakhi. This is a traditional Turkish drink made from anise. There was the faint sound of chatter, the occasional gasp, and, of course, the smell of camel hair and damp faeces. (The festival was canceled this year due to the coronavirus outbreak.)

Camels often wrestle in the forest. and not allow the competition to be staged too noisy. The camel wins by making the opponent scream, fall or retreat, and the trainer is within reach to make sure no one gets hurt. The winner will be rewarded with a mass-produced Turkish rug. and even if gambling is illegal But low stakes are often made between fans, either in the form of a few drinks or a few Turkish lira.

Camels were used in the Middle Ages as herds along the Silk Road. which is suitable for desert conditions They are still used by most nomadic tribes in Central and South Asia. In Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran, it is sometimes still used in Turkey.

With a legacy that is deeply rooted in the ancient Turkic tribes Turkey’s community of camel owners, trainers and dromedary lovers remains vibrant and competitive. But the festival has become a niche expression in modern Turkey. Today, it seems to be about socializing, gossip and drinking as much as it does. with camels fighting in the sand

As a former camel owner (more on that later) I have been especially keen to attend this festival since moving to Turkey almost a decade ago. A hip teen friend in Istanbul lamented the rehearsal as a vague and vulgar event. Similar to Turkish oil wrestling. which only tourists know or are interested in To my surprise, the audience was almost entirely Turks.

Camel people are a lively group and deeply care for their animals. Many trainers, such as Yilmaz Bicak, slept with camels overnight in a barn outside the city. This ensures that they are healthy and prevent thieves.

The animal used in wrestling is called the Tulu camel. It is a breed that was born from the mating of Bactrian camels (two-humped) and dromedary (single-backed) camels and was bred specifically for competition.

camels wrestle once a day And each match lasts about 15 minutes — again, to protect animal welfare. before entering the ring The male camel is brought close to the female camel. but not allowed to touch the animals resulting in sexual tension which the trainer said gives the male more strength

Camel wrestling has gained popularity and quirks over the years. Most discouraged in the 1920s, this practice saw a rebirth in the 1980s as interest in Turkish traditional culture increased.

More recently, the incident has been criticized by animal rights activists. which claimed that such work could be dangerous for camels

My Camel Story: Back in 2007 as a young and carefree backpacker. I spent months roaming around Syria. My heart was determined to explore arid lands and ancient archaeological sites in the east of the country. Along the way, I bought Alfie, a graceful and graceful dromedary camel.

I originally planned to take a ride to Petra. south of jordan But shortly after arriving in Damascus I also had trouble getting Alfie documents across the Syrian-Jordan border. Alas, the Syrian bureaucracy was victorious. and after rejecting an offer from a Russian circus to visit Damascus I was forced to sell Alfi to a Bedouin family. (Since then, Alfie has changed its name to Bradley. And finally I heard still roaming the eastern Syrian desert)

When the festival is coming to an end Stalls selling photographs, calendars, videos, and general camel gear also host the year’s stuff. The animals are loaded into large trucks and driven back to the corners of the Aegean region or beyond, in preparation for the next set of races.

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