I have always been a sucker for camels so when neighbour Peter came back from Ayvacık market on Friday and said that he had seen seven of them, I was instantly interested. I had been to the same market a couple of hours later and not seen one. Well, the startling news was that there was to be Deve Güreşi or Camel Wrestling in Ezine on Sunday starting at 11am.
Ezine is a pretty unremarkable town provincial in the extreme on the way to Çanakkale and ultimately Bandırma where we were bound anyway to catch our return fast ferry that day. Its claim to fame is that it is a centre of production of its own type of beyaz peynir or white cheese. We have explored the cheese shops and been to the market there on a Monday. But we were ignorant as to where camel wrestling could possibly be held. Not that we had much of an idea as to what an ideal venue would constitute anyway.
We closed up our house in Assos and set out at about 1pm. Luckily Peter was ahead of us and phoned us with instructions. We went through the mediocre part of Ezine and emerged the other side to a pretty landscape of rolling green hills. Then we saw parked cars and our first camels!
I can't describe how exciting this was. We found a place for our own car and then proceeded on foot. All along we saw tethered camels: sitting, standing, surveying the scene disdainfully, all heavily decorated with evil eye beads, tapestries, blankets and woven saddle bags. We met a man who asked us if we had tickets which sounded quite surreal under the circumstances. No, we said so bought two for the nominal price of 10TL. I asked where the money was going and was told to the Camel Lovers Association or Deve Sevenler Derneği who were actually going to contribute the proceeds towards a new waterworks system in the town. He added there were 130 camels today many from as far away as Aydın near Izmir which increased the thrills running up and down my spine.
A few more paces took us to the top of the hill and what an extraordinary sight met our eyes. I doubt that I have ever witnessed a more colourful or vibrant spectacle in my life. There in a natural contour of the hillside shaped like an amphitheatre were hundreds and hundreds of spectators.
These were mostly men. There were a few women and children but I am pretty sure I was the only female foreigner in their midst but it wasn't threatening in any way. I could hardly contain myself with excitement especially when we found ourselves right beside the entrance to the arena where the camels majestically lumbered past to their fate. Close up, they are quite intimidating as they are huge.
|colourful guys whose job was muzzling the camels|
Then the drums started. Turkish drums are deep and resonant. You hear them in Ramazan, for example, when the drummers go round the streets to wake everybody up for sahur or the meal before sunrise. I love the sound. Here, they reminded me of the drums before going into battle which in a way they were. The reassuring thing about camel wrestling is that the fight is not till the death but just till one or the other beast is pushed over or out of the arena.
Many of the men had little tables with rakı
and snacks. In particular they were relishing the sucuk that was on sale there. This is a special sausage made from beef and camel meat and heavily spiced.
|a family enjoying a picnic in their truck with camel nearby|
I could hardly bear to tear myself away from this riveting scene but we had a three hour journey ahead of us to Bandırma so with great reluctance we dragged ourselves away. An unforgettable experience.