Traditional camel wrestling in Selcuk: "once in the ring, things get serious!"
You won′t find cockfights or bullfights in the west of Turkey. Instead, elaborately decorated camels enter the ring here – to the pride of their owners. By Nina Niebergall
1. On the eve of the traditional camel wrestling festival in the western Turkish city of Selcuk, the first priority is to impress the beauty contest selection committee. Candidates are draped in colourful attire and hung with bells. The camels are then led on a rope through the streets accompanied by the sounds of drums and flutes
2. Camel owners devote much time and effort in preparing their protegees for the spectacle – often for weeks in advance. The wrestling festival is intended to preserve the traditionally established relationship between the former nomads and their animals
3. The revived customs originate from nomadic times and the days of the trade caravans. According to experienced wrestling match organisers, the practice of sparring their camels on the pasture was popular among the nomads
4. Despite all the merrymaking, once in the ring, things get serious. The camels wrestle, kick, and ram each other. In order to avoid fatal injuries by biting, helpers constantly pull the fighting camels apart. The "Tulu" bulls, a cross between Arab and Asian camels, are highly valuable and therefore kept from being seriously injured
5. A camel wins the match by forcing his rival to flee, to cry out, or by forcing him to the ground. After that – a victory spit!
6. Nowadays, such festivals are held on football fields, in ancient amphitheatres and other natural arenas. Each year in Selcuk alone, the event is attended by 20,000 spectators and features 120 camels
7. In the early morning hours, spectators come with their own seats and try and reserve the best places in the viewing stands. Then the stalls and kiosks for food and drink are set up. Some spectators simply bring their own barbecue
8. The match begins with a load roar ... or at least some foam around their mouths. The fighting bulls demonstrate their inbred aggression to the public. Some of the Turkish Tulu camels have perfected their wrestling skills. Between November and March, their owners escort them from one festival to the next