Bloody Bayram in Turkey
My family and I were rolling merrily along an out-of-the-way road near Ephesus in Turkey. It was getting dark, and we needed to find a safe place to park our camper. We finally found a little parking lot by some small stores and across the street from an open field. Then we settled down for the night.
We woke up the next morning to the loud hum of lots of people and the smell of livestock. Overnight, the empty field had been transformed into a bustling stockyard.
Animal pens and food stalls had been thrown up all over the field, and livestock were being unloaded out of the back of trucks. We spent a good half hour wondering what on earth was going on, until mom remembered reading about a holiday called “Bayram”. Bayram is an important Muslim holiday, where families buy an animal and sacrifice it, then give the meat to the poor. The animal is usually a goat or sheep, but sometimes people splurge and buy a cow.
We watched from the camper as families started arriving to pick out their sheep or goat. The farmers had set up about 20 large, square pens, making the field look like a giant, wooly, patched quilt.
Crowds of people had come to pick out their sacrificial animals, so the whole place was full to bursting. Sheep and goats of all colors — brown, white, and black — filled the pens. Over in the far corner, cows the size of tractors grazed in the shade.
The sound of farmers yelling their prices, bawling sheep, shouting men, and family arguments filled the air. Food vendors lined the field, waiting for someone to get hungry, as they always do. Some were just tiny stalls, while others had gone the whole nine yards and put out plastic tables and chairs. We decided to stay another day, because, really, when were we ever going to get another chance to see a Bayram stockyard? We stopped watching from the tiny window of our camper, and headed out into the fray, the gravel crunching under our feet.
As the day unfolded, we noticed how similar it was to families in the U.S. picking out Christmas trees. Each family member would instantly fall in love with a different specimen, and then they’d all start squabbling about which one was best. Once the family had decided which one they wanted, the parents would bargain with the seller, while the kids watched. When a price was agreed upon, the assistant boy would hurry over to ask if they wanted help tying up their purchase…for a tip, of course. Once their selection was trussed up like a newborn baby, the parents would haul out it into the parking lot and stuff it in the trunk or tie it to a car, tractor, or motorcycle.
After walking around in the brisk morning air for about an hour, trying (and failing) to take pictures inconspicuously, we started getting hungry.
We followed the smell of roasted meat and headed over to a promising looking vendor. Mom, dad, and I got liver and onion sandwiches.
After that I was still hungry, so I moved on to another vendor selling homemade gözleme and ayran.
Gözleme is similar to a savory crepe, with a variety of different fillings. They’re delicious. My favorite is beef, onion, potato, and cheese. Ayran is a drink made with yoghurt, salt, and water. It sounds weird, I know, but it’s delicious and refreshing. Turks drink it with everything.
We sat at the rickety plastic table, while watching the Turkish grandma fry up fresh spinach, onions, and cheese on a huge, spitting griddle. It smelled so good that I couldn’t wait for the food to come.
The next day, we reluctantly headed on.
That wasn’t the end of our Bayram experience, though. For the next two days as we drive along, we spotted lots of bloody carcasses hanging from trees in front of people’s houses.
I was all for buying a goat to keep as a pet, but (for some strange reason) mom vetoed it. It doesn’t matter though. Goat or no goat, none of us will ever forget our first Turkish Bayram.
Emma D'Antoni is a member of the Youth Travel Blogging Mentorship Program.
All photos courtesy and copyright Emma D'Antoni