Camel Wrestling

Once a year, camel wrestling comes to Selcuk. For up to a week in advance of the main event, one hears the dull sounds of a cowbell, “clink, clink, clunk; clink, clink, clunk,” and looks around, because “clink, clink, clunk” is a sure sign that a camel is coming down the street. Maybe two or three are parading into town, led by their proud owner. Every day, more camels come to the town square. They are dressed in their gaudiest attire, hand-woven drapery decorated with mirrors, sequins, and buttons of colored glass, lavishly set off with colored scarves and ribbons that dangle to their feet. And what is that? A knitted nosebag intended to catch the foam coming out of each camel’s mouth--but not entirely succeeding. There could not be more noticeable advertising for the camel wrestling to come.

Lynne, my wife, took some photos and recorded some of her observations . 

Camels Ready to Enter the Arena
On the big day, we arrive at the site by scooter to find it filled with people and the bouts well under way. We pay ten lira each and  pick our way through the crowd to find a spot on the hillside overlooking the arena, ready to watch the spectacle. 

The camels are paired for fighting by weight class, so there is no unfair advantage.  Once in the ring, two camels are brought together by a team of handlers.  We’re told that the camels have been aroused by exposure to a female in heat. And so, they  fight. 

The camels start tangling with each other by locking necks. Once enjoined, the top camel pushes down, trying to force the other to its knees. The bottom camel, however, can lift his opponent off the ground and use this force to unbalance him. Even though the defeated camel may be down, it may take great human effort to separate them. 

Teams of handlers rush in, the trainers attach ropes to the camels' legs, and a tug-of-war begins to separate the camels before they can hurt each other. Since a fighting camel does no other work and may cost up to $20,000, let alone the cost of feeding, owners are very protective. At any time, an owner may signal that he wants to bout to be stopped. 

The camels are not the only entertainment. Most of the audience comes for the day and brings everything necessary with them—tables, chairs, salads, barbecues. All around us people cook, drink tea, cokes, beer, or picnic, but Turkish people just won't eat in the presence of others without sharing whatever they've got, and soon we were eating and drinking with the people around us.
Strolling musicians  stop to play wherever a fee is offered. Depending on the amount of rakı consumed, the music might detract from the wrestling, because

wherever there is music there is always dancing.