SELÇUK EPHESUS CAMEL WRESTLING FESTIVAL
Every year, the third weekend of January is the Camel Wrestling Festival which is one of the biggest events of the same sort in the region. the arena close to Pamucak fills up with spectators and people who come to enjoy festivities. The owners of the camels wear traditional outfits like caps, bendy boots and keffiyehs. The announcer calls the people to the arena by reciting out loud poems and praises forthe camels and calls out the name of each animal. Tables are set behind the fences where people enjoy
grilled sausages, meatballs and skewer kebabs. Throughout the festival drums and horns play constantly and the whole event is a fantastic opportunity for amateur and professional photographers. Camels have been used in Anatolia throughout history as they are indispensable with their strength and endurance. In Aegean, Mediterranean and Marmara regions, camel wrestling is a popular winter festivity. The major rule of the games is to ensure that no animals are hurt. If during the fight things get a bit heated, then attendants (they are called Urgancı: roper) pull the animals apart. It is believed that this tradition stemmed from the long tradition of camel caravans between İzmir and Aydın. When the caravans stopped to rest in İncirliova, the unloaded camels used to play and wrestle among themselves which sparked bets among the owners, thus began the camel fights, transforming in time to a winter social activity for the locals.
The wrestling camels are born from single hunch females and twin hunch males and they are called tülü camels which are only bred for games by “savran”s, i.e breeders. Just like racing horses the pedigree is important. The wrestling games are in four categories from smaller sizes to larger ones. If a camel manages to get the other one down or makes it run away screaming, it wins the game. During the Selçuk camel Wrestling Festival, there is also a competition for the best decorated camel. Since 2017, Selçuk Municipality have been organizing a Camel Wrestling Symposium simultaneously with the festival. Many national and international academics attend this symposium making presentations on camel breeding, ensuring the sustainability of the culture.
Many Aegean towns celebrate their liberations from the occupying Greek army during the Independence War of Turkey in the first nine days of September. Selçuk’s liberation day is the 8th of September which is celebrated with festivities.
The festivities consist of craft markets, tasting tours of local cuisine and concerts in the town square in the evenings.
The festivities organized by Selçuk Municipality lasts three or four days until 10th September.
FESTIVAL OF STORKS AND NATURAL LIFE
Storks are important symbols of Selçuk for thousands of years. Every year, around 9th of March, storks migrate to Selçuk and nestle down on aqueducts, their homes for long months.
If you happen to walk through the Station Square in Selçuk, you will surely see amateur or professional photographers taking photos of the storks on the aqueducts. The municipality of Selçuk takes precautions to protect the animals, for instance, the restoration work stops not to disturb them, and their nests are cleaned and repaired before their arrival. The first stork to fly in is deemed to be the harbinger of spring.
Storks spend the winter months in North Africa then migrate to Aegean region in two groups, the first group arrives in the last week of February whereas the last ones come in the first week of March. Around August 25th, they began their journey back to warmer lands.
Festival of Storks and Natural Life is organized by Selçuk Municipality to create awareness on the culture of wildlife. Storks are symbols of the wildlife with their habitat in Selçuk’s marshy land. To protect nature and wildlife while increasing awareness and culture are the main objectives of the festival which aims to become a sustainable event of the region. for more information, please contact the Culture Department of the Municipality and Selçuk Ephesus Town Memory.
The festival is usually held in the month of August.
FEAST OF VIRGIN MARY
It is believed that Virgin Mary, who had come to live in Ephesus accompanied by St John the apostle, died and was raised to heaven on the 15th of August. The day is deemed sacred as Christians and celebrated with religious rituals in Church of Virgin Mary and Virgin Mary House on Bulbul Mountain. Vatican organizes the biggest celebration and ritual in Virgin Mary house whereas other churches in Selçuk and Şirince hold their own masses.
ST JOHN FEAST
The church in the ancient city of Ephesus is one of the seven churches mentioned in the bible. Also, the region is significant as St Paul and St John lived here for a while. St John the Apostle spent his last years in Ephesus and he is the only apostle to die a natural death.
At John’s tomb is located in the St John Basilica inside Ayasuluk Castle. He is the one Jesus had trusted his mom with, therefore, the feast held in his honor is an important day in Christian culture. The day is a day of celebration as it’s believed that St John finally met God when he died. Orthodox Christians celebrate the day in the beginning of May while Catholics hold their rituals at the end of the month. On St John’s Day, there are rituals and ceremonies held in St. John Basilica, Church of Virgin Mary in Ephesus and St. Demetrius Church in Şirince. The rituals are directed by Fener Greek Patriarch Bartholomew or a visiting Patriarch.