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Kirkpinar Oil Wrestling
July 30, 2019
by Emin Ozmen
Each year, the Turkish city of Edirne attracts a wide range of people to its Oil Wrestling Festival. Inscribed in the list of UNECO Intangible Cultural Heritage, the festival is considered to be the world's oldest continuously held sporting competition.
Wrestlers, known as "Pehlivan”, have come to compete in the arena for 658 years. Edirne, once the capital of the Ottoman Empire and home to important works of art, has proudly been carrying this old tradition to next generations. The Festival takes place in July, the hottest month of the year in the region, where temperature can reach 40 degrees.
Reminiscent of the Roman gladiators, the atmosphere inside the arena is tense: drums beat while crowds cheer fervently. No one wants to lose a fight after a year of hard work and training. There are dozens of wrestling tournaments in Turkey, but there is nothing more prestigious than winning in Kirkpinar. On 7 July 2019, Ali Gürbüz won the coveted gold belt.
Magnum photographer Emin Ozmen photographed the event.

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