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World’s best festivals: Kirkpinar Oil Wrestling

Pehlivans

Oil wrestlers Flickr photo by Ceyhan Molla

Lonely Planet listed Kirkpinar Oil Wrestling Festival as one of the World’s Best Festivals in June – July.

Location: Kirkpinar, Edirne, Turkey

Dates: late June–early July

Level of participation: 1 – watch the slippery Goliaths grapple

During the early, expansionist days of the Ottoman empire, the military commander Süleyman Pasa would let his soldiers unwind between warfare by wrestling. On one memorable occasion, 40 men scuffled at once. The two fiercest fighters grappled past midnight and until both died of exhaustion. When the remaining army had conquered Edirne, the victors referred to the 40 soldiers in the name of Kirkpinar, where the wrestling competition still takes place.

It’s unclear whether olive oil was used in the Ottoman era, but it certainly is today. Over 100 drums of oil are used during the three-day tournament, starting with an opening ceremony where the contestants, some just children, get greased up.

The idea is to prevent your foe from getting a good grip. Circulating the stadium between 20 grunting, glistening showdowns, the attendants with extra oil prove popular. This is no-holds-barred wrestling, where a contestant might grab his opponent’s testicles. With a 14-carat gold belt awarded to the bas pehlivan (head wrestler), there’s everything to play for.

However, in remembrance of the brotherhood shared by the original 40 wrestlers, participants are marked on the manners they show their oily opposite number. If a winner has not emerged after 30 minutes, a ‘sudden death’ round ensues.

Local attractions: Kirkpinar Museum contains wrestling relics such as tote bags, clay oil jugs and gold belts.

More info: www.kirkpinar.com

via Lonely Planet

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