Thousands in line for camel-wrestling event .hurriyet2008-detailbox-newslink { font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size:13px; font-weight:bold; text-decoration:none; color:#000000;} .hurriyet2008-detailbox-newslink:hover { font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size:13px; font-weight:bold; text-decoration:underline; color:#990000;} BODRUM - More than 100 camels from many parts of Turkey are brought to compete at the wrestling event at the Mumcular Stadium in Muğla. A crowd of 5,000 is gathered to watch the events which offer a lot of battle and fun.

All eyes were on camels at the Mumcular stadium over the weekend, where the first of the Muğla province camel-wrestling tournaments took place.

More than 100 camels from as far afield as Balıkesir and Demre were trucked in to take their place beside local heroes that walked to the field in knock-out rounds from early morning to sunset. A hefty YTL 10 ticket entry fee did not deter a crowd estimated at 5,000 from attending the event. There was also a steady stream of business at the numerous sizzling köfte, kavurma and yes, camel sucuk stands, and a vigorous trade in raki for those who took up tables above the concrete benches of the stadium.

The benches afforded the best view over the small field where up to 15 bull camels at a time would be walked around by their team before their turn at "wrestling" their opponent. The match could be over in seconds if one camel capitulated the other, or could battle out over many minutes if they locked necks and neither gave way. Sunday's crowd roared its approval when local favourite, Yalı Çapkını, pushed his opponent through the fence and onto spectator’s front-row tables, not just once, but twice. The camels were pulled back onto the field and re-matched.

Yalı Çapkını could not get his opponent down, even though he was bearing his entire front body with forelegs off the ground over the neck of the heavier animal. They were eventually hauled off each other by ropes and the crew on the field. The camels were too valuable to risk damaging, much to the surprise of people who at first expected it to be a blood sport.

No damage
The only damage that could occur was at the barrier fence when a camel took off at a run, or a pair went through into spectator areas, but it was usually laughed at and they were chased off with much chair waving.

As Mumcular was the first event in the area and only 30 kilometers from Bodrum, there were a few international residents in the crowd. Frank Marciano, a longtime resident and a fluent Turkish speaker, left in a cheery mood, "I just love it. I always get invited by my village friends including an ex-Muhtar who had camels in previous years. We sit for hours eating and drinking. The whole scene is unbelievable and a rare treat."

Another longtime resident, Jane Baxter Gerçeksöz, was entranced at her first camel-wrestling event. She said, "I have become a camel-wrestling groupie and am looking for the next dates." She was also trying to follow the rules of the esoteric art and to learn the terms for the highly decorated saddles (havut) and ornaments worn by the camels. She liked the commentator (cazgır) who kept up a running commentary of the action between the wresting with poetry about camels and patriotism or just amusing poems, if only league football did the same.

The day’s close saw the crowd disperse to either walk back to Mumcular, or drive in many vehicles, including a new BMW behind a family Fiat tractor. The young and the old, the rich and the poor, elderly ladies in şalvars and elegant city women dressed in black and wearing sunglasses, this sport attracted the most egalitarian and good humoured crowd in Turkey.

These age-old beasts of transport are now the treasured and pampered darlings of camel-wrestling tournaments around southwestern Turkey and the event calendar is one of the most organized and anticipated in the country. The organisers at Mumcular handed out flyers that listed the full winter fight calendar for the Muğla and Aydın provinces. It also listed the well known champion camels entered in the big Yatağan tournament on Jan. 11, 2009, the event competes with a tourist crowd puller at Selçuk.