That would definitely be my picture of the month for January!
I am really not sure why we have gone so quiet. February seemed to disappear down the back of the sofa. We didn’t do much except try to get out to the shops between showers of rain. I guess it’s winter. We did mean to get away this year but an unexpected trip to London in December meant that, by the time we got round to looking at possibilities, everything was either rainy or too expensive.
We have just got back from a more scheduled trip to see family in the UK and friends in Ireland. But, whilst we work out what to do with the blog and process more photographs, here are some of the camel wrestling in Selçuk back on the third Sunday of January. It was a glorious sunny day – quite warm – and the crowds were out and cooking, eating, drinking, playing music and dancing on the tables. The photos, sadly, lack the sounds and smells which are very much a part of the experience. We hope they convey some of the atmosphere.
Third Sunday in January – Selçuk Camel Wrestling. This year with glorious sunshine.
Last year it was cold, the ground muddy. I remember my feet getting freezing cold, but at least it was not raining. This year Selçuk Camel Wrestling Festival took place in glorious warm sunshine, unseasonably warm perhaps but we are not complaining and neither were the large crowds out for having a good time. A good time seemed to include drinking vast amounts of rakı, outdoor cooking, gambling, dancing and music. It was all very loud, colourful, entertaining, chaotic, good natured, and great fun.
It is almost impossible to convey the sights, sounds and smells of camel wrestling in words. The cheering is very loud, the music louder, the commentary often barely audible. The smells of camels, barbeques (both commercial and personal), rakı and people packed tightly together.
It is quite hard to imagine the concept of the most beautiful and best dressed camel. No matter what the added finery, garters and all, they are not exactly going to the ball. The following day they will be off to Pamucak for the camel wrestling, but on market day it was the best dressed camel competition. We have no idea which camel won or what the standards for judging are, but as ever when camels are about there was much excitement, playing of drums and wind instruments as loudly as possible, and freshly cooked sucuk.
The jasmine in the garden is still flowering, OK, not like it does in summer, but there are still some flowers. Today there were honeybees on the jasmine. We were going to spend some time in Cafe Carpouza sitting outside in the warm sunshine and drinking tea but all the tables were taken by others with the same idea. So instead we wandered around for a bit, found a camel, got given some camel meat sucuk which was delicious, and then made tea at home.
We went to the Selçuk camel wrestling event. This was much larger than the one in Belevi, and was preceded by camel related events in town over two days including a best dressed camel / beauty contest. There were TV crews, radio crews, photographers and reporters, various dignitaries including members of government and the mayor of Izmir. There was a great deal more organisation, along with more Jandarma and traffic police, necessary given the crowds present. It was difficult for the friend who gave us a lift to find a place to park, it was difficult to find a place to stand and watch – not possible to get the kind of uninterrupted view we had at Belevi.
Unlike Belevi there was no alcohol for sale, although there was a great deal of raki being consumed. There were some stalls selling food and snacks, less than at Belevi, more people seemed to have brought their own supplies. There was also a great deal of gambling going on. The whole event seemed a lot more formal. The sound system was high quality so it was easier to follow the commentary. Fewer camels ran out of the arena with people chasing them. It was fun, but a different sort of fun.
The sky was grey but at least the rain held off. It was cold and muddy, the sort of cold wet mud that saps heat through boots at an alarming rate. As a result we did not stay long, long enough to watch some wresting, eat some sucuk in bread, get a load of photos, and generally catch the atmosphere.
The Aegean may not somewhere that most would associate with camels but here in Turkey they seem to be a big thing. Yesterday camels we being paraded through town with much noise colour and fanfare. We are not really sure why market day was chosen, we guess a prelude to the camel wresting in Belevi the next day.
Today in Belevi was a camel wrestling event which after a leisurely and hearty breakfast we went along to. We caught the Tire dolmuş and got ourselves dropped off at a sign pointing to the wrestling place. It was about ten minutes’ walk and soon we could see many cars and tractors parked up ahead of us, not long after that we could hear the music – there were many people walking round playing pipes and drums. There was a festival atmosphere with candyfloss, sucuk and other festive foodstuffs on sale along with scarves celebrating the camel wrestling. There was quite a decent sized crowd of people, all tending the camels or looking on. A lot of people had come with their own barbeques on which they were cooking chicken wings, köfte, a wide variety of foods. Washed down, by the menfolk at least, with copious amounts of raki. Many of those who felt it was early in the day for raki were drinking beer. We did enjoy our sucuk sandwich – most of the sausage on sale was camel.
The wrestling itself was spectacular – the camels beautifully got up in colourful saddles and head-dresses. They queue up before being taken into the wrestling ring where they are put together with another camel and left to do their own thing. Some of them are keener (or maybe just more aggressive) than others. Some pairs did not fight at all. They were encouraged to wrestle but we certainly didn’t see any being forced to do so. (We’re not quite sure how you could force a camel to do anything it didn’t want to do). In the actual wrestling, they would push each other about a bit. Sometimes one would run away but, more frequently, they were separated by their handlers and teams of officials. There was no chance of any animal getting hurt – they are far too valuable to risk in that way.
Early in January there is the Selçuk camel wrestling event held on Pamucak beach. Hopefully like today it will be bright and sunny. We should remember to eat less for breakfast so we can enjoy more of the delicious sucuk.