Most camels in Turkey are simply tourist attractions, used for pleasure rides or as photo props in places like Pamukkale and Side. It wasn’t always so, however. Camel caravans once crisscrossed Anatolia, transporting gemstones, spices and woven finery. Before the Balkan Wars of 1912–13, they extended northwest as far as Bosnia, beyond which the beasts fell ill due to the damp central European climate.
In Muslim folklore the perceived haughty demeanour of the animals is attributed to their knowledge of the hundredth, mystical epithet of Allah – humans only know the conventional ninety-nine.
The sport of camel wrestling is a quintessentially Turkish spectacle. The bizarre sight of male camels in rut, butting and leaning on each other (their mouths are bound to prevent biting) draws vast crowds across the western Aegean region; there’s even a camel wrestling league.