Bodrum’s women carry on tradition of cameleering
Women have helped the survival of the tradition of cameleering, which is one that has continued for a very long time in many of Bodrum’s neighborhoods, particularly in Mumcular and Kumköy.
Seçil Sayar Ünlü, 29, is a real estate agent with a degree in primary school teaching. Every day when she has free time after work, Ünlü visits her camel with her husband at a barn owned by her father-in-law in Kumköy.
Ünlü hand-feeds her camel and takes care of it, wearing her special cameleer boots and yörük scarf.
Speaking to state-run Anadolu Agency, Ünlü said her interest in camels began with her uncle. She has followed camel wrestling matches in the area for as long as she has known.
After getting married, her and her husband decided to get a camel, she said.
“We bought a camel with the support of my father-in-law. He encouraged us as well. I am a real estate agent but I take care of my camel in my free time as a hobby after work and we go to the wrestling matches,” said Ünlü.
The cameleer said she understood camels, but they are hard to maintain and difficult to control, so it is necessary to love them.
When she goes to the matches, male cameleers are surprised to see her at first, she said, but later they support her.
“Generally, men are cameleers, not women. They are surprised when they see me in the field. Some of them congratulate me. Usually, women do not go near camels because they fear them, so they keep a distance, but if you make them feel loved, there is nothing to be afraid of. I think it’s much better for women to also be in the forefront. You need to love the job first and be interested in being a cameleer,” Ünlü said.
Ünlü said she had many belongings with camels on them. “On Valentine’s Day, my husband bought me a camel necklace, which he had specially made. Everything I have has a camel. My keychain, my purses, my fancywork and my decorations have camel figures on them,” she said.
She said they had plans to buy another camel because it was very important for her and her husband, since they took care of their camel on the weekends instead of going out.
Her husband, Ümit Ünlü, said his wife was interested in camels as much as he was, which made him very happy. He said his wife was very experienced in taking care of camels.
“Compared to my friends’ wives, my wife is more experienced on the topic. She loves camels almost more than I do. Some of my friends’ wives do not like camels at all. They tell their husbands, ‘change your clothes, you smell.’ But my wife makes me proud when she says, ‘you smell like my son.’ I have a wife who understands me and I hope everyone has a wife like her,” he said.
Mukaddes Doğan, 69, who has a camel and lives in the Mumcular neighborhood, loves her camel like her child.
The first thing she does every morning is to take care of her camel and feed it.
“I became acquainted with camels thanks to my son. I became used to them because my son always goes to the camel wrestling matches in Antalya. He would always say, ‘I’m going to get a camel’ and he got one. I have been taking care of the camel for nearly six years,” she said.
Doğan said her camel didn’t like her at first, but with time, they became used to one another.
“The camel’s previous owner told me it didn’t like women that much, but later it got used to me. Now, as soon as it hears my voice, it makes a sound to call out to me. We also participate in the camel wrestling matches. I stand next to the camel while my son watches the match. People are very surprised when they see me. The camel is like my child now. When I get up in the morning, I feed it first and then I have my breakfast. I love it more than my own children. I plan to take care of camels until I die,” she said.