Camel Wrestling. Photography Workshop Day 2.


Camel wrestling? Are you joking? When Arjen Zwart, an Istanbul photographer, advertised a two-day trek that included shooting camel wrestling, I just had to sign up. How often do you get to see camels wrestle? The day was made even more interesting as we got to follow one particular camel from his stables into the ring.

We were first introduce to our camel, Yildizhan, an enormous, fully grown bull, weighing 930 kilos, by his owner, Ahmed. He had paid 70,000 TL for this magnificent beast; camel wresting is obviously very serious, and very expensive! We watched as Yildizhan was loaded into a truck, with two other younger camels, ready for the short journey to Turgut Reis, where the camel wrestling was to take place. We followed on, with excitement, still unsure as to what the day would bring.

Yildizhan, being loaded into the truck

As our camels were being unloaded, we watched the others arriving, some by truck, and more just walking along the road. The camels wore such an aloof expression as they walked along, and made a magnificent spectacle decked out in their finery.

We followed Yildizhan into the arena, and saw the astonishing spectacle 
of camels as far as the eye could see; a riot of colour. 

Those are camel sausages, called sucuk. I couldn't resist trying a sucuk sandwich for lunch!

The occasion began with the sacrifice of a sheep in the middle of the arena, followed by prayers. Then the wrestling could begin. Camels wrestle in the wild when they are competing for a female, so, to encourage the first camels, two females were led into the arena. This made the camels froth at the mouth with anticipation, and the wrestling began. I expect that camels in the wild can get rather aggressive with each other, but here, the camels were dragged apart if it looked too violent, as these camels are far too valuable to allow them to be damaged in any way. As the first two camels were tussling with each other, the next pair were circled around to excite them, ready for their own bout. All the time, drums were being played, the intensity building as the day progressed. It was an amazing atmosphere.

When the camels wrestle each other, they try to get their head underneath the stomach to lift the other off the ground. Note our two intrepid photographers, Ozlem and Hilal. I was far too wary to venture that close to warring camels!

If the fight becomes too violent, the camels are pulled apart by two teams of men

They didn't manage to subdue Yildizhan and his opponent, and they carried on, crashing into the crowd. This (above) was taken by me, running backwards, as I had been sitting next to this post!

All around there were people partying!

After the excitement of the camel wrestling, we drove to Lake Bafa, for dinner in a fish restaurant. There we watched the sun go down on our memorable two days. Thank you Arjen, and thank you all my new friends. I had the best time!

Photography Workshop in Western Aegean. Day 1

 Some members of our photography workshop, led by Arjen Zwart,
an Istanbul-based professional photographer

We flew from Istanbul to Bodrum on the 06:35 flight. A very early start, but essential if we were to visit all the places on our itinerary. Our minibus met us at Bodrum airport, and drove us to our first destination, Milas, for breakfast. This was once the capital of the ancient kingdom of Caria, and is thought to date from the 7th century BC. Milas today doesn't reflect its glorious past, but the evidence is still there.

You can still see relics of the past, built into walls around the city.

This is the Baltalı Kapı, or Axe Gate, once the entrance to the city, and later used for an aqueduct. 

The name of the gate is derived from the carved axe, the symbol of Zeus,
 on the keystone of the arch. 

We then headed for Labranda, a holy sanctuary, dedicated to Zeus, "Father of Gods and men". On the way, we passed an ancient edifice which intrigued us, so we stopped to take a look. It was the Gümüşkesen Tomb, built between 160-180 AD.  

This is said to be modelled on the famous Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, in nearby Bodrum;  one of the original seven wonders of the world.

Who built the tomb and why, is not clear, but it has been suggested that it was constructed as a resting place for some town dignitary during Roman rule. 

The road to Labranda was steep and rocky, following the path of the ancient pilgrims, away from the hustle and bustle of busy Milas. The site is huge, and we were the only visitors, left to clamber about at will in the silence and solitude of this ancient, sacred site left abandoned more that 1,000 years ago. 

 By now, we were hungry for lunch, so decided to see what was available in the Çomakdağ Kızılağaҫ Village, another spot on our itinerary. Unfortunately, there were no restaurants, but we managed with supplies from a small store in the village. This village was founded some 500 years ago by the Oğuz Turks, who carry on their traditions to this day. We found the inhabitants to be friendly people, who are proud of their village, and only too keen to show us around, and didn't seem to mind our cameras at all! 

The women still wear their traditional dress. This lady invited us into her house to look at her handicrafts. To enter, we had to move the planks aside.

These men were playing a game called Okay...

...while this woman was selling her wares nearby.

Our final trip was to the local cemetery, where the  ancient stone headstones had the most magnificent view over the valley below.

We were also intrigued to see some decorated headstones.

We eventually reached our hotel, exhausted, but happy, looking forward to our next exciting adventure!

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I couldn't resist this one!