FX Excursions

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Oil Wrestling at Turkey’s Kirkpinar

by Benjamin Kerns

Apr 15, 2016

Kirkpinar Oil Wrestling in Edirne, Turkey © Oguzdkn | Dreamstime


There’s a lot to love about the locals of Turkey, with their penchant for wrestling in olive oil chief among them. Turkish oil wrestling is a tradition going back more than 700 years and is thought to be the oldest in the world. If you’re planning on visiting the country, you have to partake.


Kirkpinar Oil Wrestline, Edirne, Turkey © Yavuz Sariyildiz | Dreamstime 63889121

© Yavuz Sariyildiz | Dreamstime


Local pehlivan (wrestlers) converge on the town of Edirne for a week-long festival known as Kirkpinar, during which scores of greasy, shirtless men battle each other to the ground in a true test of strength and grit. The Spartans have nothing on these oily beasts. They train for years under masters before competing in this contest of slippery strength and are highly regarded by the Turkish people.


The festival has become so popular over the years, it’s now designated a UNESCO Intangible Heritage event that draws thousands of onlookers from around the world.


Kirkpinar Oil Wrestling in Turkey © Petitfrere | Dreamstime 24818610

© Petitfrere | Dreamstime


If you think you’ve got what it takes to tussle with these oleaginous warriors, there’s no reason you shouldn’t give it a go; the competition is open to everyone no matter creed or color. The fights used to be to the death, but we’re pretty sure they put a kibosh on that a long time ago.


Of course, this competition takes place in the middle of July, so anyone enjoying the festivities should probably bring along a mask. A group of sweaty, oil covered men in leather doesn’t exactly give off the most aromatic odor, after all.



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