Monday, 4 February 2013

The day the camels came to town

Last week the local ex pat forums were buzzing with the news that camel wrestling was coming to town. Some people were advocates of the event others were very much opposed on the basis that it was not a safe environment and they felt it was animal cruelty. Their opinions on the subject led to quite a debate.

Consequently we were in two minds as to whether we should give this event a look or not. On the one hand we love the traditional Turkish culture, but on the other we are animal lovers and therefore find any kind of animal abuse abhorrent. In the end we felt we should see for ourselves and make our own minds up.

So yesterday we set off to have a look. We have been told that it was originally held as a one off event to raise funds for Karaçulha school but proved to be so popular that it has become an annual event, 2013 being the third year it has taken place. It started at 10.00 am so we arrived just before that and already cars were parked along both sides of the road and hundreds of people were milling about. We just had time to have a look at the trade stands around the perimeter before the camels started to be led towards the ring to parade. It seemed somewhat bizarre to see the highly decorated camels walking down the dual carriageway amongst the traffic.

Majestic camels wandering down the dual carriageway amongst the traffic
We crossed the road to the area where the camels were being prepared, and stood for a while watching.  I have never seen such large camels. The paraphernalia on the camels was magnificent, and their owners seemed to have a real affinity with their stock.

The owners seemed to take such pride in their camels and their dress
On the way into the arena we passed the food stands selling sucuk - spicy sausages made from camel meat which were being cooked on charcoal barbecues - well of course we had to try it. It was served in a half bread with onions, tomatoes, and lettuce, was really spicy and absolutely delicious. A definite thumbs up from us.

Sucuk sellers grilling their sausages on coal barbecues

We then paid our 5 lira entrance fee and went into the wrestling area. It is clearly a very popular sport here because the area was packed. In typical Turkish fashion, seating was provided on the flat roofs of adjacent buildings and on flat bed lorries that had been parked around the edge of the ring. The ring itself was surrounded by some fairly sturdy crash barriers and the concrete had been covered in a thick layer of sand.

Various announcements were made, prayers were said and then the national anthem was played. This was the first time I had heard this at a public venue and I found it very moving because you could tell in those few moments what a patriotic culture the Turkish people are.

Then the first camels arrived in the ring, and the wrestling began. I was surprised how quickly it was all over. The camels pushed each other with their necks, and as soon as one was gaining the upper hand a team of men rushed in to separate them. I would imagine that these camels and their equipment is worth far too much money for them to jeopardise either being damaged. I can only liken it to arm wrestling - a test of strength. There certainly didn't appear to be any cruelty that I witnessed anyway. The sand in the arena was raked between each bout. The owners seemed very concerned at the well being of their camels.

The camels are surrounded by people ready to step in if the pushing gets out of hand

Camel wrestling began among ancient Turkish tribes thousands of years ago and is a traditional Turkish sport. Certainly if yesterday is anything to go by it remains extremely popular still today, the area was crowded and the spectators were fervent enthusiasts.
So to speak as I find I thought the event was well organised, the safety of the camels was paramount to all. It is clearly a much loved local sport. I didn't feel the camels were put under any duress and I saw no sign of any cruelty. I loved the camels' colourful dress and the utter pride that the owners had walking beside these beautiful creatures. Fantastic atmosphere and part of the Turkish culture. But that is only my opinion and all to their own.



  1. Never been to camel wrestling looks really interesting. Good pics.

    1. It was interesting. A part of traditional Turkish culture that you don't often see nowadays.

  2. All the camels appear to have rabies......

  3. lovely pictures..

  4. Lovely pics Jacquie and you have reassured me with this post. I have had plenty of opportunities to see camel wrestling in the past 15 years but have avoided it because I thought it may be cruel. But I know you're an animal lover and would be honest about the sport. Maybe next time I'll go!

    1. Jacquie can you let me know if you got my email?

    2. Yes Ayak email received and I have now replied. Thanks for your comments on this post.

  5. We didn't make the camel wrestling this year - went over the last couple of years and loved it. Great photos. By the way, re the comment above, the camels foam at the mouth as they are male camels and it's mating season. That's why they 'wrestle.' They want the lady. :)

  6. Glad to hear you enjoyed the camel wrestling too Julia. The camels did plenty of foaming at the mouth, but didn't put a lot of effort into the wrestling though. Typical males all show and no 'do' lol!