Turkey’s Camel Wrestling Festival

In January each year there is the annual Camel Wrestling Championship held in Selcuk in Turkey. The event puts together two bull (male) camels with a female camel on heat nearby. The camels fight it out for the female, leaning on each other to push the other one down. It is most common in the Aegean region of Turkey, but is also found in the Marmara and Mediterranean regions of that country. There are an estimated 1200 camel wrestlers (or Tulu) in Turkey, bred specially for the competitions.

A camel can win a wrestling match in three ways: By making the other camel retreat, scream, or fall. The owner of a camel may also throw a rope into the field to declare a forfeit if he is concerned for the safety of his animal.

Camels wrestle with others in their same weight class. Camels have different tricks, and contest organizers match camels with different skills. Some camels wrestle from the right and some from the left; some trip the other with foot tricks (“çengelci”), and some trap their opponent’s head under their chest and then try to sit (“bağcı”); some push their rivals to make them retreat (“tekçi”).

A camel wrestling event involves considerable pomp and ceremony. The camels are decorated, and participate in a march through town followed by musicians on the day before the event. The actual wrestling can be somewhat underwhelming to someone not familiar with the intricacies, although onlookers must often flee from an oncoming camel that is retreating in defeat from his opponent.

In the heat of the tournament, camels spew foamy saliva in their excitement. Additionally, camels are retromingent animals, and so spectators would be advised to beware not only of flying saliva but of flying urine as well.

Popularity of the sport is declining, as the relative costs of caring for such an animal rises, as well as concern for the animals’ welfare.

2015_CamelWrestlingSelcuk-4210Two bull male camels wrestle inside the arena of Pamucak.

2015_CamelWrestlingSelcuk-3811Visitors applausing the winning camel. BBQ and Raki is highly consumed throughout the day during the festival.

2015_CamelWrestlingSelcuk-3257While the Wrestling itself is a loud event and mainly dominated by screaming and Raki-drinking men, the beauty contest and march through the streets of Selcuk is a family highlight of the festival.

2015_CamelWrestlingSelcuk-43442015_CamelWrestlingSelcuk-2968The evening before the Camel Wrestling Championship, a traditional festival which is popular throughout Western Turkey in the winter months, people gather to celebrate in the center of Selcuk.

2015_CamelWrestlingSelcuk-3460A Turkish man is playing the Zurna, a traditional music instrument, while others are dancing and having dinner.

2015_CamelWrestlingSelcuk-3446Bottles of Raki, an anise flavored Turkish liquor, are prepared. Raki is widely consumed at the camel wrestling festival.

2015_CamelWrestlingSelcuk-4100The Camel Wrestling Festival takes place in an ancient arena near Pamucak beach. Up to 20,000 visitors attend the competition to watch more than 80 Camel duels. The wrestling of two camels takes about 5 to 7 minutes.

2015_CamelWrestlingSelcuk-4129selcuk_camel_wrestling_2 2015_CamelWrestlingSelcuk-41352015_CamelWrestlingSelcuk-3340A camel wrestling event involves considerable pomp and ceremony. The camels are decorated, and participate in a march through town followed by musicians on the day before the event.

2015_CamelWrestlingSelcuk-3295During the festival grilled camel sausages are being sold (as seen in the background).

2015_CamelWrestlingSelcuk-3786The wrestling festival is a huge event with up to 20,000 visitors. Entry price is 15 Lira (about 5 Euro). Everyone can bring BBQ, drink and food. Many groups are there hours before the festival starts to ensure they have the best view.

2015_CamelWrestlingSelcuk-37712015_CamelWrestlingSelcuk-3971The owner of a camel enters the arena near Pamucak beach in preparation for a wrestling match. Wrestling camels are very expensive. They are often imported from Iran or Saudi-Arabia and cost up to 10,000 US Dollars. So owners are not interested in getting their camels hurt during the wrestling.

2015_CamelWrestlingSelcuk-4187Although very unlikely and tried to be prevent by any means, camels sometimes hurt each other as they try to bite each other’s feet.

2015_CamelWrestlingSelcuk-32632015_CamelWrestlingSelcuk-3236While in heat, male camels produce foamy saliva.

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Camel Wrestling Festival

Camel Wrestling is an ancient traditional festival popular in the Aegean region of Western Turkey. Two male camels ‘fight’ against each other in favor of a female camel on heat nearby. They do so by leaning on each other to push the other one down. Camels do not get hurt doing so although sometimes they can fight too enthustatic. In this case the camel owner may throw a rope into the field to forfeit if he is concerned for the safety of his animal.

Thousands of local people gather and celebrate already the days before the festival takes place.

I will work on a full-length photo essay covering this traditional folklore happening and will post new images within the next weeks.

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Two bull camels wrestle in an arena near Pamucak beach. The time being on heat male camels produce foamy saliva.

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A vendor is selling Turkish flags with the conterfeit of Kemal Atatürk, founder of the Republic of Turkey, during the Camel Wrestling Festival.

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The evening before the Camel Wrestling Championship people gather to celebrate in the center of Selcuk. A Turkish man is playing the Zurna, a traditional music instrument, while others are dancing.

Je suis Charlie

JE SUIS CHARLIE – Memorial Service in Vienna, Austria. 01/11/2015

Today 12.000 people attended a gathering in memorial of the ‘Charlie Hebdo’ terror attacks organized by the Austrian Federal Government and the major communities of faith in Austria. Attendees were mourning alongside the Austrian President Heinz Fischer, Federal Chancellor Werner Faymann, Vice Chancellor Reinhold Mitterlehner, Governor of Lower Austria Erwin Pröll, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, President of the Islamic Community of Faith in Austria Fuat Sanac, and many more. Actors of the Royal Theater were reading poems and a declaration of the Austrian Government, the Choir of the State Opera House was singing. Some groups took the possibility to attract attention, such as supporters of the Free Syrian Army and supporters of PKK-leader Abdullah Öcalan.

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In Search of Black Gold

For centuries coal mining has been the most important industry in Walbrzych, Poland. However, in the 1980s many of the coal mines became unprofitable. With Poland’s transformation from a state-directed to a free-market economy in the 1990s, nearly all of the coal mines in Lower Silesia were shut down. Thousands of people became jobless.

The area still has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country despite new industry settling in the area. It didn’t take very long until the jobless miners in the area started to dig for coal on their own.

The business is dangerous and illegal. Tunnels leading as deep as ten or fifteen meters below the ground are only protected by wood and sandbags. Inside, people dig for coal the same way they did centuries ago, by hand. Police regularly arrest illegal coal miners and confiscate their equipment, so most people dig by night to avoid police control. Not only the well-educated former miners search for ‘black gold,’ but also young and unexperienced jobless men risk their freedom and their lives to make a couple of Euros a night by selling illegal coal to residents.

Every year several people die after tunnels collapse. Roman Janiszek is a former coal miner, now an illegal miner who has founded a committee that is trying to make the activities legal and also to keep track of the situation in the outskirts of Walbrzych. Roman also points to the fact that people not only lost their jobs and privileges but also their social position with the closing of the mines. Once prideful coal miners, people like Roman Janiszek now work illegally every night to make a living.

2014_Walbrzych-1617Zbigniew Harasymowicz and Roman Janiszek, two illegal coal miners, are working during a day-shift in the outskirts of Walbrzych. In the back the remains of an abandoned coal mine from the 1990s are visible.

2014_Walbrzych-2311Two young illegal coal miners are working during a late night-shift in a so-called ‘rat-hole’ mine outside of Walbrzych. Many of the young workers are inexperienced and risk their life and freedom for a couple of Euros.

2014_Walbrzych-1549Zbigniew Harasymowicz, an illegal coal miner is working on the outskirts of Walbrzych.

2014_Walbrzych-2154 Roman Janiszek is a former coal miner, now an illegal miner who has founded a committee that is trying to make the activities legal and also to keep track of the situation in the outskirts of Walbrzych.

2014_Walbrzych-1638The remains of an abandoned former coal mine near Walbrzych.

2014_Walbrzych-1764During a late-night shift on the outskirts of Walbrzych, Roman Janiszek is entering a so-called ‘rat-hole’ mine.

2014_Walbrzych-1817Roman Janiszek, an illegal coal miner is entering a ‘rat-hole’ mine. Tunnels leading as deep as ten or fifteen meters below the ground are only protected by wood and sandbags.

2014_Walbrzych-1898Roman Janiszek, a former miner and now an illegal coal miner works late night inside one of the so-called ‘rat holes’ on the outskirts of Walbrzych.

2014_Walbrzych-1963After finishing a night-shift Roman Janiszek is exiting the illegal coal mine through the narrow tunnel.

2014_Walbrzych-1834Roman Janiszek, a former miner, is holding coal he has extracted inside a ‘rat-hole’ mine several meters below the ground.

2014_Walbrzych-2392After finishing their night-shift in an illegal coal mine, two young miners exit from a ‘rat-hole’ mine with a bag of coal.

2014_Walbrzych-1599Zbigniew Harasymowicz, an illegal coal miner takes a break during a day shift in the outskirts of Walbrzych.

2014_Walbrzych-1987After a night-shift in the illegal coal mines, Roman Jansizek leaves the outskirts of Walbrzych.

2014_Walbrzych-2486Roman Janiszek, a former miner, now forced to dig illegally, dons his former official guild regalia. These days Roman is dressed with the uniform only once a year before the traditional celebration of Barborka, the miners’ day.

Illegal Coal Miners

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Young illegal coal miners start their late night shift in a ‘rat-hole’ mine outside of Walbrzych.

Illegal Coal Miner in Walbrzych

2014_Walbrzych-1554An illegal coal miner is digging in the outskirts of Walbrzych. Coal miners first remove a few meters of soil in search for coal and then start to dig a tunnel beneath the ground.

Illegal Coal Mining in Poland

I am currently working on a new reportage covering illegal coal mining in Poland. I will post new images of the story here from time to time.

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An illegal coal miner works late night inside one of the so-called ‘rat holes’ on the outskirts of Walbrzych.