The spring time goat shearing of the Yörük people in Aegean
Wilco van Herpen YÖRÜK - Hürriyet Daily News
All the goats have been milked, now it is time for them to be sheared. All the goats are brought together in an area surrounded by a wooden and metal fence. People are all waiting for what is going to happen.Every now and then I bump into the nomadic Yörük people. It was during my last trip to the Aegean town of Karaburun when a photographer friend of mine, Aydin Çetinbostanoğlu, told me that there would be a nice occasion to meet them. It was time to shear the goats. When we arrived at 7 a.m. half of the family was already awake. Some of men were gathering the goats that roam around freely during the night; some of the women were preparing breakfast.
The head of the family welcomed us into his house. The place where the family stays during summertime is not really their house, their real house is in Karaburun, but the Yörük people are nomads and therefore prefer to travel whenever possible. Early spring is the time they leave their homes and wander together with their goats in the plateaus. Interesting to know: it’s not the Yörük people who choose where they are going to stay, but the goats that choose the places to go to and when to leave that chosen place.
Outside, at the entrance of the house is the kitchen. Suddenly the young mother starts yelling; one of her children went too close to the road and has to return to the house. But the funny thing is that she is just yelling. She doesn’t move away from the kitchen and continues, while still yelling, putting different kinds of cheese on some plates.
A modest breakfast
Generally, we people like a rich breakfast with eggs, jams, different kinds of cheese, meat products etc. The Yörük people have a modest breakfast: three kinds of cheese, honey, tomatoes and bread. They have sweet cheese, normal cheese and spicy cheese, all made of goat milk. Together with the homemade bread I have the breakfast of my life, it was really fantastic.
The children finally arrive and granddad takes them all on his lap. Then it is time for work, because there is a lot to do. Three more goats have to be slaughtered and a lot of food has to be prepared because there will be a lot of visitors today. Shearing 500 goats is quite a job, and to do so you need a lot of people. Around 11 a.m. a big truck arrives with at least 30 people. All these people get off the truck, gather at the house, and drink tea.
Finally, it is time to start working. All the goats have been milked, now it is time for them to be sheared. All the goats are brought together in an area surrounded by a wooden and metal fence. Curious, they are all waiting for what is going to happen. Every time a man approaches, the goats look with frightened eyes at the man. With a swift move he grabs a horn or a leg of the goat. I see a young boy trying to do the same, but his goat is heavier and stronger than the boy.
Female goats are sheared
This year only the female goats are being sheared. Soon it will be Ramadan, and after that the slaughter feast will be celebrated. For the slaughter feast people want male goats with long hair, so the male goats are lucky. With big scissors in their hands at least eight people are waiting for the goats, and one after another has a haircut. Some people manage to make nice motifs; others simply cut all the goat hair. After a short while there is an enormous pile of goat hair that’s being blown away by the wind. The number of sheared goats increases fast, and within a couple of hours all the men have finished the job.
They return to the shanty where the women have prepared a gorgeous meal for them. Meat, rice, salad and even dessert, its all there. Everybody eats the food without talking, as if they haven’t eaten for month. Once they finish, conversation starts again. In the meanwhile, even more visitors have arrived, some of them bringing watermelon some of them coming empty handed. All the visitors are warmly welcomed.
Having lived for 13 years in Turkey I know about the hospitability of Turkish people, but while visiting the Yoruk people I see an even more hospitable approach. This isn’t strange, I think, because these people still live a nomadic life, in which helping each other is extremely important. As a traveler, the weather can sometimes suddenly turns bad and you need to find shelter; or, without noticing it, it may have got late and you need a place to sleep. Today, someone needs your help; maybe tomorrow you might be the one who needs help. What comes around goes around. k HDN