Yörük – nomadic shepherds in the Taurus Mountains

Yörük – nomadic shepherds in the Taurus Mountains

Only a few kilometers away from the tourist-oriented coastal towns on the Turkish Riviera and the Turkish Aegean, not only the landscape and nature are changing fundamentally, the population is also fundamentally different.

Mostly living in small villages and working in agriculture, the villagers can be found in the towns on the weekly market days to sell their products. In the hot summer months, on the other hand, many residents of the coastal regions flee to the mountains to spend the summer there and to do some farming. There are now huge settlements of summer residences on the plateaus in the Taurus along the coast. There is a certain degree of mobility in both the townspeople and the villagers, which is also reflected in the high number of migrant workers who travel to the cotton fields, tea fields or fruit-growing areas at the respective harvest times.

Yörük, the last real nomads in Turkey

yoeruek ziegenhirten 3A very special group among the mobile Turkish population are the remaining Yörük, the last real nomads in Turkey.

Despite considerable efforts during the 20th century to make this ethnic group settle down, there are still groups of these wandering shepherds who live in their tent villages in the high mountains all year round.

Some of the Yörük groups now have a permanent residence on the plains during the harsh winters and only move to the mountains with their animals in the summer months.

However, these groups no longer belong to the Yörük, but are referred to as semi-nomads.

yoeruek ziegenhirten 1The Yörük seem to live independently, separated from the rest of the population.

They make almost everything they use in their daily lives, including food, clothes and carpets (kilims). Usually very accommodating and hospitable, they form their own communities far from any civilisation.

They have learned to hold on to their freedom, which means a life full of deprivation, especially in winter. An important area within this freedom is religion, because the Yörük are among the Alevi.

In contrast to the predominantly Turkish Sunni Muslims, the nomads are Shiites who, albeit in a completely different way from the Shiites in Iran, live their faith.

Apparently self-sufficient, separated from the rest of the population

yoeruek ziegenhirten 4Among the Yörük there are still countless features of shamanism as necromancy, which can still be found today among Indians and Mongolians.

This type of religion comes from the original homeland of the Turks in Central Asia and was mixed up with Islam during the migration to Asia Minor.

The Yörük do not observe the usual Muslim rituals such as praying five times a day.

They have their own religious ceremonies in their tents, during which there is singing, dancing and games. One can almost say that it is largely Alevi who have handed down folk Turkish music and poetry.

yoeruek ziegenhirten 5It is difficult to understand today that the ancestors of these groups were able to immigrate to and even conquer Asia Minor in the eleventh century.

Against a Byzantine culture, which built on the Greek and Roman culture as a basis and was almost completely destroyed.

History shows again and again with concrete examples that even highly developed cultures perish if one fails to defend them, which, however, is not to be understood as synonymous with armed conflicts.

Cultural diversity is a cultural asset worldwide that must be preserved. And anyone who, for whatever reason, destroys cultural assets also destroys their own being and the opportunity to learn from past mistakes.

Shamanism as necromancy

yoeruek ziegenhirten 3Today, the original culture of the Yörük can almost only be found in museums. Above all, the open-air museum in Kemer and the museums in Antalya and Anamur should be mentioned here. However, it remains questionable whether this can be a perspective, also applied to other areas of our life. It is only in small steps that one knows how to see cultural diversity as something very positive that needs to be preserved.

There are now also some Yörük groups among the nomads who also invite guests to their hikes together with the herd. For fourteen days high up on the Yaila, in the typical Yörük tents, an attempt is made to present the life of these nomads as authentically as possible to a group of visitors interested in culture.

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