Elmali Oil Wrestling festival in Turkey
Wrestling is a national sport in Turkey, particularly Oil wrestling. In fact, the country is famous for its various annual wrestling festivals. Elmali Oil Wrestling festival, similar to the historical Kirkpinar Oil wrestling tournament, is one of the oldest festivals in Turkey which attracts more than a 100 wrestlers from all over Turkey to Elmali to compete for the wrestling title. From the 6th of August to the 8th of August, this wrestling festival – which is over 600 years old – will be held in a large stadium in Elmali, a town in the Antalya district. If you have already booked your flights to Antalya around this period, it is a great opportunity to enjoy this lovely sporting event.
During the festival, the participating wrestlers are clad in nothing but a trunk known as kisbet which is traditionally made from calfskin. The contestants’ bodies are drenched with olive oil before the start of the festival, giving it a slippery feel. The whole essence of this is to make it impossible for the opponent to get a grip. The competition for superiority continues until the winner is able to land his opponent unto his back, depending on the display of good force and balance. The festival starts off with the performances of the Turkish oil wrestling beginners (usually about 7-years old) and then progresses through different levels until it reaches the highest level.
The wrestlers perform to the cheering of the crowd, the beating of drums and some flutes playing in the background – all of which add up to the atmosphere of fun and excitement. While you are at the festival, it is a good opportunity to try out some Turkish cuisines, particularly some seafood and fish soup which is a specialty in Turkey. But if you are not a fish or seafood lover, there are other delicacies you could try out, ranging from sis kebab (grilled cubes of skewered meat) to dolma (stuffed vegetables). For starters, you can try the Turkish version of tapas: meze. They vary from small slices of honeydew melon with creamy feta cheese and freshly baked bread to dried and marinated mackerel. Other famous meze are fresh salad yogurt-garlic sauce, deep-fried squid and mussels in a traditional sauce, crispy fried pastry, and fish eggs. The locals often use meze as an excuse to drink the accompanying Raki, a very alcoholic, anise-flavoured drink.
Aside from the festival, you can take time to explore the natural beauty of Elmali and share in its cultural richness. Elmali offers a lot of sightseeing and historic opportunities. If you’re looking for some souvenirs to take back, you can buy some of Turkey’s famous jam made from its abundancy of fruits.