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    Camel Wrestling in Turkey

    We had our parking garage experience in Bodrum on Saturday. The next morning, we took a dolmuş from the city center to the Bodrum Yalı Deve Güreşi Arenası (Bodrum Waterside Camel Wrestling Arena). As soon as we stepped onto the street, we were surrounded by camels and people, all headed into the arena.


    Stadium entrace


    As we got closer, the live music grew louder and the smell of food stronger. Sausages were draped over stands as köfte (Turkish meatballs) sizzled on open grills. I later bought a sandwich and found out it was not what I expected. The vendor informed me I was the proud new owner of a camel sausage and köfte sandwich. Weird as it may sound, it was actually rather delicious. The camel meat had the texture of venison. It was a little bit gamey with sausage seasoning.


    Food at camel wrestling


    This camel was so excited he couldn’t tame his spit. We later saw the (bruised face) owner grooming it with his head covered in the sticky froth. I got an action shot as I tried to avoid the spit soaring towards me:


    Camel Spit


    The camels in queue were kept to the side of the arena. This one stood tall and proud as his team prepped him for competition. He was covered in rugs, which winning camels are apparently awarded before exiting the stadium.


    Camel wrestler


    We sat on a rocky hillside and watched the camel wrestling for some time. During the matches, female camels in heat were circled near the arena. The males wrestled to exhibit their dominance as the alpha-camel. According to Fodor’s, there were judges, separaters (urgancı), commentators (cazgirs), and 21 officials (not including the camel owners) moderating the event. Camels can bring their owners anywhere between $2,500-$25,000, depending on the competition. The camels did not seem to hurt each other. Leah described it as a giant thumb wrestling match, only with camel heads. The officials always intervened before the animals got too aggresive.


    Camel Wrestling in Bodrum


    The musicians at the event were impressive and loud! We noticed the groups of musicians stopped by people who had brought food. When people liked the music, the musicians left with food in hand.


    (Hover over the video and click the sound icon to hear:)


    It was the perfect setting to hear traditional Turkish music being played on the zurna. One group gathered around people behind us and gave as much volume as their lungs could muster. They didn’t settle for us, so I guess our food was unimpressive.


    Turkish musicians


    Hundreds of people gathered on the mountain-made bleachers. Some burned off brush and made fires to cook, while others pulled rocks over the briers for seating. The atmosphere was laid back, with the occasional shout of excitement for the on-going wrestling matches. There were families enjoying meals and friends talking excitedly. We took it all in, a definite Turkish cultural experience.


    Camel wrestling


    Here are two of the camels locked mid-match. Notice the umbrellas in the background. The rain kept teasing us all afternoon.


    Camel wrestling


    What better food to eat while watching camels wrestle than cotton candy?


    Leah with cotton candy


    I picked up an official camel wrestling scarf. After an afternoon of camel wrestling culture, we decided to leave when…


    David with a camel scarf


    It started pouring. We immediately headed towards the entrance of the stadium to see if we could find a dolmuş or a taxi. However, to get to the road we had to run through the camel holding area. We played Frogger with the camels and got completely soaked by the rain. Kendall and Bo were thrilled:


    Rain at camel wrestling


    (Hover over the video and click the sound icon to hear:)


    We followed this camel and his team down the road. The camel decided he had had enough. His owners tried to persuade him, but he wasn’t interested. He was content to camp out in the street and block traffic:


    Dragging camels up a road


    We couldn’t find a taxi, so we decided to walk. During our wet hike towards the city, we saw this view of Bodrum and the Gulf of Gökova, a merging point of the Mediterranean and Aegean. It was a beautiful sight after a day full of surprises. 


    Rain in Bodrum, Turkey



    A Parking Garage Full of Camels

    You never know what to expect in Turkey. During our recent trip in Bodrum, we were at the bus station about to head back to the house. Some of us went to find a restroom, and we followed the signs until we got to a parking garage. Right before we rounded the corner to the bathrooms, we came upon a sight we never could have imagined. Sitting in the parking garage were… camels. A whole lot of camels.


    (Hover over the video and click the sound icon to hear:)


    We knew there was a camel wrestling festival in town, but we never thought we’d stumble upon the camel motel. The camels were dressed in rugs with their names draped over their sides. The owners were grooming, chatting, and comparing camels as we walked through the parking garage of humps.


    Camel in a parking garage


    This big guy put his head down for Kendall and me to pet. He seemed to love the attention and leaned to the side as we scratched behind his head. However, someone promptly warned us camels can lunge forward and that we were in the striking zone!


    Petting a camel in a parking garage


    Bo counted 58 camels within sight:


    Camel in a parking garage


    If I owned a camel, I don’t know where I’d put it. But I guess a parking garage works.


    Camel next to a truck


    Seeing all of the camels only got us more excited for the camel wrestling event the next day!