The Yörük museum is located in Karaçulha on the outskirts of Fethiye and is a great place to see if you are on holiday in Fethiye. But who are the Yörük and why do they have a museum?
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 seing 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 (the highlands behind Fethiye, 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 migrating their flocks between the winter coastal grazing places to the high pastures in the summer. In fact we have seen groups on horseback herding large flocks up the Uzumlu Road.
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 2,000 to 3,000 Yörük continue to live in Karaçulha and they have created a museum as a focus for community activity in the suburb. The Yörük Museum in Kargı set the permanent display of tribal costume and artefacts.
The musem is easy to find. Take the road from the centre of Fethiye towards Antalya and it is alongside the site of the big Saturday market, just over the bridge on the right. There is 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.
So the next time you are in Karaçulha take a break at the Yörük Centre.