Nicholas’ Festival, Demre
While Turkey is probably not the first place you would associate with the real Santa Claus, there is very good reason why you should. Not many people know this but this is actually where the man himself came from and not from the North Pole, Scandinavia or anywhere else. A fourth century bishop who helped the people of Demre out in times of trouble, particular the girls who were unfortunate enough not to have a dowry, Saint Nicholas has now been immortalised and given the honour of becoming patron saint to virgins, sailors and children, among many more. So, where better to attend a festival dedicated to Father Christmas than in the village where he worked all those centuries ago.
Camel Wrestling Festival, Selcuk
Taking place in January each year this is a highly traditional and entertaining festival where camels take each other on in the ring. Apparently the colder the weather the more aggressive the camel and this is seen as a healthy, humane and natural way for them to vent their frustration, much to the amusement of the ten thousand or so locals and visitors who cheer them on. This bizarre event has been taking place for over a century and provides a means of escape at a time when farmers have little to do. And how is the winner decided? Well, one camel must run out of the ring and cry out with frustration or fall to the ground and it’s all over. Really one that has to be seen to be believed.
Folklore & Music Festival, Bursa
Undoubtedly one of the country’s biggest folk dancing events, this is where you need to go to check out some authentic Turkish music and dance. As well as this, however, you will have the chance to see numerous other aspects of the Turkish culture. Concerts and craft displays take place every day during the week of the festival and you will also have ample opportunity to sample other delights too including the native food and drink. Go easy on the latter, however, it’s not quite as innocent as it looks. So, head to Bursa in July to be part of this thoroughly enjoyable celebration of all things Turkish.
International Jazz Festival, Istanbul
While Istanbul is well worth visiting at any time of the year, July, and in particular July during the Jazz festival, is a really good time to stop by from an entertainment point of view. Welcoming top musicians and dancers from all over the world, the buzz about the city is superb. Performances take place both indoors and outdoors and there are a host of free events taking place too – always an added bonus for those of you on a backpacker budget. And, even if jazz isn’t really your thing you are still guaranteed to enjoy this festival, if not for the music, certainly for the atmosphere and the fun.
Belly dancing has been an integral part of the entertainment scene in Turkey for centuries. An ancient style of dancing which is believed to have originated in the Middle East over five hundred years ago, it has made its way to the western world with a vengeance in recent years. Traditionally carried out by women and girls in private for each other to celebrate the female spirit, belly dancing is now being practiced by both men and women all over the world and is also becoming very popular as a form of exercise. Nevertheless, while belly dancing may have made it to the US, Japan, Europe and Australia, its authenticity certainly hasn’t which is why you should do your best to catch the real thing during your stay in Turkey. You won’t be disappointed.