Inside a Turkish Camel-Wrestling Festival

The arena was filled with raucous spectators who, in tiered seating, surrounded the wrestling pit below. Camels were paraded in and out of the ring, dolled up in their best regalia, their elaborate saddles noting their names, origins and their trainers or owners.

Held in mid-January on Turkey’s Aegean coast, the annual camel-wrestling festival near the town of Selcuk almost overpowers the senses. When I attended the event in 2017, sausages sizzled on stalls surrounding the arena; old men chain-smoked cigarettes while sipping down beer or raki, a traditional Turkish drink made with aniseed. There was the low din of chitchat, the occasional collective gasp and, of course, the smell

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