J and I have an inbuilt, genetic fascination with camel wrestling events here in Turkey. I know some of you out there will shudder and/or point an accusatory digit and even start sticking pins in voodoo dolls because you hate any and all forms of animal exploitation (but hope the pins will cause bits of my person to experience great pain or even fall off!). I understand your objections but remain unrepentant.
These events have their roots in the nomadic culture of Asia that goes back, quite possibly, for thousands of years. During the rutting season, which lasts just a few months, nomads would gather at long-established traditional sites for the prime purpose of breeding their she-camels with the strongest bulls. These bulls would go through a natural selection process amongst themselves by ‘wrestling’ for the right to pass on their genes.
In many respects it’s a bit like watching Mick McManus and Giant Haystacks without the gouging or forearm smashes. The animals can’t bite as they would naturally do because of a special binding on their jaws. I’ve never once seen a drop of blood or an injured camel apart from the occasional bruised ego!
J and I prefer to frequent the venues where the spectators are usually all local Turks – small towns and even villages away from the areas with expat communities. This is not a snobby thing but a seeking after the authentic experience because there is more than just watching these magnificent animals do their thing.
Towns like Buldan and Çal in Denizli Province are magnets to us and so worth the extra miles of driving to get to them. Often the only barrier between a couple of tons of tunnel-visioned contesting-for-the-damsel’s-favours camels and the picnicking spectators with their barbies, bottles of rakı and mixed grill is a chicken wire fence. When hormonal gladiators run amuk or even amok there is no funnier site than a bunch of shouting, gesticulating, well lubricated men trying to save their very hot barbie, rakı glass in one hand and waving plastic chairs at two single-minded, blind-to-all-else furry gladiators with rumpy-pumpy on the brain!
Finally, a couple of examples of why it is not a good idea to wear your Sunday-best or a hoody come to that . .
Let me finish off back where I started about animal exploitation: I accept that these days camel wrestling has become more of a spectacle for townies than a folk gathering of nomadic herders. I oppose commercial whaling in all its forms but support the rights of Inuit peoples to hunt at sea for food whether they use traditional tools or a powerful rifle. In the same way that Morris Dancers no longer believe the fertility angle in their entertainment I support the rights of Turks to enjoy a link to their nomadic ancestry – camel wrestling is not a blood sport, long may it continue!
Alan back up the cabin.