A new Yörük museum was opened in Karaçulha, Fethiye this week. But who are the Yörük?
The word ‘Yörük’ is an umbrella term for the nomadic tribes which used to be widespread across Anatolia.
The word is derived from the Turkish verb ‘yürümek’ which means ‘to walk’ – and in even comparatively recent times the Yörük did just that: spent their lives walking from one pasturing site to the next.
In summer they drove their flocks up to the high pastures returning to lower levels in the autumn. Their wordly goods being carried on camels/horses and mules.
This writer well remembers one of the highlights of a bus journey from Izmir to Bodrum in the 1970s being the black goats’ hair tents which could be seen on the slopes on either side of the road during the summer months – these were the Yörük in their summer pastures.
They used to make a living with their animals: sheep, goats, horses and camels whilst the women became renowned for the kilims, bags and braid they wove. That may have been done to create a dowry but, in hard times, the items could also be sold.
During the early 1980s the Turkish government carried out a settlement programme by which Yörüks were given land in return for giving up their nomadic way of life.
This was undertaken to give them access to better health care, and to ensure their children could go to school.
Thousands of Yörük were settled in what we now know as Karaçulha near Fethiye. However, within a few years, many of them went back up to the yayla, where they now live year round in villages such as Boğalar where they hold a Yörük Cultural Festival each year in August.
Some Yörüks do still follow the old practice of moving up to high pastures with flocks in the summer. However, you are more likely to find them in their tents around Eğirdir, Konya and other places further east than in the Fethiye region.
Some 2 – 3,000 Yörük continue to live in Karaçulha and now they have created their own focus for community activity in the suburb. It is alongside the site of the big Saturday market, so easy to find, and has a teashop and cafe serving good, cheap food which makes it a perfect place to take a break if you go to the market or just passing through.
Opening day was 14th April and we were there to see demonstrations of Yörük crafts: weaving carpets and braid; making drums from gourds and animal hide; making the traditional shoes called çarık. There was also entertainment from Yörük musicians, singers and dancers and our old friends the Ölüdeniz Folk Group gave a spirited performance. The Yörük men seemed to delight in wearing their traditional homespun clothes, flat caps and orange and white shawls – not to mention displaying a fine range of well cultivated moustaches!
The Yörük Museum in Kargı has set up a permanent display of tribal costume and artefacts.
So the next time you are in Karaçulha take a break at the Yörük Centre.