We continue our ‘Take a Look at Turkey’ series with a trip to an oil wrestling event.

Well Oiled!

Attending the oil wrestling contest, felt like being transported back to a time when gladiators exercised and practiced in preparation for the arena.  Above us 3 storks circled looking almost like dinosaurs as they soared with their feet out.  There were at least 30 professional wrestlers from all over the country gathered at Dalyan Stadium under a hot Sunday sun, competing against each other for prize money.

They make an impressive sight, glistening with olive oil and wearing only their special thick buffalo skin trousers, richly embossed and studded with their name, sponsor or the town they represent.  They grapple in pairs to the atmospheric soundtrack provided by the customary drum and zurna.

The rules of the game are simple, the first one to go ‘belly up’, whether that is on the ground or in the air, loses.  If no one wins in the allotted time, it goes to extra time (indicated by a red ribbon on one ankle) and if this still provides no victory, the winner is declared on points, by the steward. Beneath the trousers are cords tied around their bodies and knees.  The opponent attempts to get hold of these by sliding his hand down, therefore it is essential to have as tightly fitting trousers as possible!

An occupational hazard for the wrestlers appears to be the oil/sweat mix which inevitably runs into their eyes, and stings – making visibility difficult.  But at the end of the day, they all seemed to be very much enjoying themselves and it was all generally good natured.

Oil wrestling has a tradition of over 700 years, and many events like this one take place across the country in the late spring, early summer.  The main contest is held in Thrace, near the Bulgarian border, when the winner receives a golden belt, similar to boxing.  If they win for three consecutive years, the champion gets to keep the belt.

The event lasted all day, and was well attended, mainly by local Turkish people.  The seating provided was the obligatory white plastic chair, but it was all shaded.  As one would expect there was plenty of food, drink and trinket traders on hand.  An unexpected occurrence was a half time misting of rose scented water, dispensed by a tractor pulling (presumably) a crop dusting machine!

The oil wrestling took place at the Dalayan Stadium, Dalayan on Sunday 24 April 2005. It cost 10 YTL per person for the ring side seats and 20 YTL for the stadium seats. Posters advertising the event were placed around the local towns, including Fethiye a week before.


If you hear of any event going on that you think others would be interested in, or if you have a ‘travel times’ article you’d like to submit please let us know and we will post it on FethiyeTimes.com.