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Camel Wrestling Festivals of Yuruks

The camel wrestling festivals which Yuruks are interested in have played an important role in the preservation of the Camel trade culture. “Camel wrestling” is a very interesting example of ethnic cultural heritage that has survived in Anatolia. As a matter of fact, Turkey is the only country in the world where camel wrestling is still widely practiced today.

In Turkey, camel wrestlers exist in about 100 settlements in the provinces of Canakkale, Balikesir, Izmir, Manisa, Aydin, Denizli, Mugla, and Antalya. The spatial distribution of wrestling organizations reveals the presence of a specific cultural region where “the culture of camel wrestling” is maintained in Western Anatolia. In Anatolia, camel wrestling began to flourish in the Aegean Region as of the first half of the nineteenth century. The popularity of camel wrestling in this geographical area is explained by a number of factors, and the tradition of camel trade which is an important characteristic of the Yuruk culture should be emphasized (?ali§kan 2012: 374).

Camel wrestling events are organized on Sundays between late November and mid-March, and attending these events is part of the local way of life in these rural communities. The number of spectators during a season is about 500 thousand (Caliban 2013: 796).

The cultural atmosphere at these festivals (where traditional music and dances are performed by Yuruks dressed in traditional clothes and special food like the camel sucuk barbecue is served) attracts numerous visitors from outside of the community. In particular, when these events are organized in communities situated close to the main touristic centres (e.g. Selpuk, Ku^adasi, Bodrum, and Demre), they are attended by numerous foreign visitors.

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