Time has come again for one of the most important and famous traditions of Turks. It is actually a kind of sport performed by camels. At first glance from the word "wrestling" or "fight" it seems as if it is the same as the bullfights in Spain or cockfights in Italy. But nothing is what it seems. The main difference of camel wrestling from the others is that no animals die.
Camel Wrestling is a sport in which two male camels wrestle. The wrestles are only performed during winter period. Because the camels get very angry from december to february du to their physical conditions. The wrestles are most common in the Aegean Region of Turkey and can be seen in such cities as Izmir, Selcuk(Ephesus), Aydin, Mugla, Denizli (Pamukkale).
The tradition originated in the Turkic tribes about 2400 years ago. It is obvious to see that the camels wrestle with each other in their own nature, so it was a practice long before the Turks. We can say that the practice reached at its toppest point after the arrival of the Turks to Anatolia in the 11th century AD. In 1920s, the people were discouraged by the goverment to organise the practice but after 1980s it became very popular again. This was due to the rising of tourism. Because many visitors were coming to Turkey not only for its historical beauties but also for its traditions and uncompared cultural activities.
For motivating the camels the organizers bring two camels together just after the pass of a female camel. In winter male camels are emotionally more sensitive so they reacted very strongly. It is not very difficult to encourage one camel to wrestle with another one after that. The camel is declared as the winner if the competitor falls to the ground or fless away from the fight.
Camels start to wrestle when they are at the age of ten and can wrestle for about ten years. Most of the wrestling camels are bred in Afghanistan and Iran. One successful camel can be sold up to $40000. The people who are keen on feeding a wrestling camel should be a bit rich as the camels consume a lot and their foods get expensive if the owners don't have anything from their fields or garden to give them as foods.
It is a festival for the locals and they entertain a lot.
What is main reason why so many people participate in these wrestles? To see the camels while wrestling or to meet with their friends for singing, dancing, entertaining?
Recent years the number of the participants for camel wrestles has increased. Because more and more people now see this practice as a cultural activity instead of cruelty for the animals. The camels are decorated with traditional rugs, the bells and carved saddles. The practice also includes a beauty contest among the camels.
Actually the practice starts one day before the wrestles. The participants gather in a restaurant or hotel. They drink raki, eat specially-cooked meals and start to collect money as donation. Whoever gives more becomes leader "aga" of the wrestling day. On the following day when the wrestles are performed, "aga" takes his place on the best side with an excellent point of view of the wrestling pitch.
Other participants take their places around the pitch very early in the morning. They set a fire for their BBQs and cool up their drinks. The musicians play their flutes "zurna" and drums the whole day. It is a good way for them to make money as the participants tip them as long as they play. The people entertain all day eating, drinking, singing and dancing. Of course with one eye they also follow the wrestles.