The Nomadic Walk is a unique cultural event and happens only once a year around the third week of April. The walk is organized by the people of Patara to celebrate the start of the tourist season.
We didn’t really know what to expect from this walk. Would it be a parade with big bells focused on impressing the tourists or would we experience the genuine cultural tradition of this walk? Either way it caught our attention. Being modern-day nomads we had to see if we could connect with the nature of this ‘Nomadic Walk’.
The origins of the Nomadic Walk
13 years ago the government decided that there should be a week dedicated to tourism in Turkey. The Turks love celebratory days. For example the 24th of November is Teacher’s day, the 23rd of April is Children’s day and there are many more! But one day to celebrate tourism wasn’t enough so Tourism Week was invented. All the cities, towns and villages were asked to do something to celebrate tourism for 1 day between the 15th and the 22nd of April.
The people of Patara decided to organize a walk from Delikemer to Patara where the hikers would follow the old water system which in the Roman times brought water from Islamlar, a small village in the mountains, to Patara. This walk also forms part of the well-known long distance footpath known as the Lycian Way, which many tourists have walked. It seemed an appropriate walk to do in celebration of the type of tourism this area has in the springtime (people on walking holidays).
The first few years it was simply a walk with a barbecue lunch provided by the villagers. Then someone had the idea to reenact the cultural traditions of the nomads who lived in this area, the Taurus mountains, and moved between the lowland pastures in the winter months and the mountain pastures in the summer months. To reflect these traditions people dress in traditional nomadic costume and bring their camels, horses, sheep and donkeys to the walk.
When we arrived at the aqueduct of Delikemmer, the starting point of the walk, we noticed straight away that there were more Turks than tourists present. The walk is very popular with the people from the surrounding villages. They dress up for the occasion, bring their whole family along and meet with their friends from other villages. We were greeted by smiling faces and a little group of musicians. They were playing traditional music on drums and flutes and the tone was set for the start of the walk.
During the walk I imagined how it must have been for the nomads to move around between the pastures. I could almost sense the emotions from the past. At some point we lost the big group. Niko and I were walking at our own pace, enjoying the view over the mountains and letting our thoughts flow around in our head. The smells of the pine trees kissed our nostrils and we started to feel high. We were in a state of bliss, feeling completely connected with life and nature. People take drugs to get into this state of mind. Go for a long walk in nature instead!
A good walk in nature also makes you hungry. At the end of the walk we were rewarded with a typical Turkish lunch. Bread, beans, beef stew, rice, salad, porridge,… it definitely satisfied our appetite! But we weren’t the only ones who were hungry. Over 900 people were queuing to receive a plate from the caterers who volunteered to cook for this event. It took the chef, his mother and his wife the whole night to prepare fresh food for this big amount of hungry walkers! Talking about dedication…
Folkloric dances & music
After lunch the musicians started playing traditional music. The folk dance group of Patara gathered in a circle and started dancing on the tunes of the music. With their dances they were telling stories of the nomadic culture. It was a fascinating sight! The moving twirling bodies had a hypnotizing effect. More and more people started joining the circle, becoming ecstatic with joy. Everywhere I looked people were laughing, smiling and dancing. The positive and happy energy was contagious and I couldn’t stop my body from moving along the rhythm of the music while trying to shoot steady photos and videos.
The organizers really succeeded in their intention of keeping the nomadic history alive and combine modern-day tourism with old traditions! It was admirable to see how much effort they had put into making this walk a genuine and fun experience. Patara and the surrounding villages worked together as a real community to organize and gathering the food, the drinks, the animals, the costumes, the musicians and the dancers. We learned that the folk dance groups practiced the whole winter three times a week to learn all the traditional dances.
It was a very special experience to be part of this walk! We enjoyed five blissful hours of walking, dancing, socializing and experiencing the ‘real Turkey’. We’ve learned a lot about the traditions of the nomadic people and definitely felt a connection with them. We might not travel by camel or donkey or share our story through a dance but in the essence we’re the same – seeking ever-changing horizons and exploring new territories, a tribe of nomads.
Watch the whole experience in this video:
Did you ever participate in a unique event during your travels?