OIL WRESTLING Erdine, Turkey
JUNGLES in PARIS presents
Photographs by Ayla Hibri
Edirne, in northwestern Turkey, is home to an annual competition that has existed since 1362. Billed as the world's second-oldest athletic tournament—after the Olympic Games—it's also the largest showcase for the Turkish national sport of oil wrestling.
This time-honored event has one noticeably different ingredient from wrestling bouts elsewhere: olive oil, and lots of it. The one thousand or so contestants at Kirkpinar, as the competition is called, use an estimated thousand kilograms (about one ton) of the all-natural unguent throughout the one-day tourney. In addition to its aesthetic benefits, being slathered in oil prevents an opponent from easily gaining leverage.
Combatants wear kisbet, skintight shorts that are made of buffalo or calf hide. Most matches end with one combatant being pinned on the grass, but a contender may also secure a victory—and ultimately the title—by decisively elevating his opponent above his shoulders.
Matches are limited to 40 minutes, and the threat of receiving anihtar—an official warning issued to a wrestler deemed not to be putting up enough of a fight—keeps things moving. Tradition more or less forces competitors to begin each match on good terms. Minutes before they go at it, they help each other oil up.
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