*  This section is compiled from the information provided by University of Muğla Sıtkı Koçman, Ortaca Vocational School.

Nomads Culture

There are many nomads in Muğla region. Nomads who reside here are usually named after the animals they have, such as Karakeçili, Kızılkeçili, Sarıkeçili, Karatekeli, Karakoyunlu, Akkoyunlu, Çepni. It is very common that the names of Türkmen/Oğuz tribes exist in villages.

Yörük (nomad) come from the Turkish verb “yürü” (walk). It means people who “walk”, “move”, “migrate”, are “immigrant” or “half immigrant”. At the beginning, this term was related to nomad life style; as “nomads” settled down, started agriculture, became villagers, even settled in cities; they started to use the term “nomad” as an adjective that come from their ancestors. This name which sprout during Ottoman Empire has been forgotten following nomads pulled away from social life. Nomad is a name of certain living and producing style and it has a cultural meaning in today’s world. Nomads are not an ethnic group. They are not different from Turks or Turkmens.

Nomads spend summer in their “yazlak” (summer house), winter in “kışlak” (winter house) and autumn in “güzlük” (autumn house). Their lives depend on their animals. Their economy is based on animal breeding and feeding. Nomads basically feed and breed small animals such as goats and sheep, and horses and camels for transporting or moving.

Nomads don’t move to high plateaus in one day. Depending on the temperature and weather after May, they leave their winter residence with their herds. They use their camels as carriages while moving.

Nomads can give breaks a couple of times for a day, a week or sometimes even more on the way to plateaus. These depend on the weather, water and grasslands. Heavy rain can hinder migration. Rich grasslands might cause long stays and reaching the destination later than planned. When animals stay long in winter residences, walking long distance might cause injuries on their feet. This could be one of the reasons that stop nomads. The places where nomads stop for breaks are called “konalga”. These konalgas give opportunity to different groups to get together and socialize after long stays in winter or summer residences.

Legend of Mt. Çiçekbaba (Sandras)

Mountains and trees have an important place in Turkish myths. These two elements can be seen in many stories. While mountains are seen as divine, trees are related to “taking a root”, “settling down” (Ögel, 2006).

There are some beliefs and stories about saints that has been spread to Anatolia from Khorassan in Iran. One of the stories is about Haci Bektasi Veli and says a settlement has been built on a place where a staff thrown from Khorassan landed.

A similar story is about the mountains in the area. According to the story, 72 saints in Khorassan threw their staffs to Anatolia, Balkans and the Middle East. They were supposed to settle in places where these staffs bloomed. Five of these staffs fell on the summit of mountains in the region. These mountains are Atkuyruksallamaz, Şimşir, Ölemez, Aygır and Sandras. One of the five saints who travelled after his staff is Çiçek Baba, hence the name Mt. Çiçekbaba, or Sandras. Some believe he is called Cicek due to his love to flowers, some believe he had smallpox (cicek in Turkish) (Karaağaç, 2009).

Nowadays people visit the place that they believe his grave take place in the third week of August every year and circle around the place surrounded by stones and 30 m long; they pray, make wishes and sacrifice animals there.

Legend of Mt. Ölemez

According to the story, Lokman Hekim came to Mt. Ölemez one day. The fresh air, rich plantation and the beauties of the nature impressed him. When he looked over Köyceğiz Lake from the slopes, he said “Even if you want, you can not die here” (In Turkish, Ölemez means “one that cannot die”). It is believed the name of the mountain come from this saying (Karaağaç ve Alacain, 2004).

Another story about the name of this place is a tradition of a nomad culture. According to this tradition, nomads do not drink the first milk of a mother cow after she gives birth. This milk is called “ülemez” milk. It is believed that, this word was transformed into Ölemez in time.

Legend of Kaunos and Byblis

There are two different stories about how Kaunos ancient site was built. According to the Ovidius, an author in antiquity, Miletos, the son of Apollo, had two children, a girl named Byblis and a boy named Kaunos. Byblis fell in love with her brother. Although she knew this love was not natural and acceptable, she could not help and wrote a letter to her brother. Reading the letter, Kaunos condemned her sister with hatred and disgust, left Miletos for good in order not to see her sister again and came to an area near today’s Dalyan river at the border of Caria and Lycia. Kaunos established a city there which he called after his name, Kaunos. Byblis could not withstand Kaunos’ absence any more and commited suicide. Nymphs, who are water fairies, pitied her and made her a stream.

In another story, it was Kaunos, who did fall in love with Byblis and was exiled from Miletos because of that. As a result, Byblis lost her mind and hung herself (Erhat, 1999).

A train station in Dalaman and African Turks

Selim the third, gave a big farm in Dalaman as a present to his mother Mihrişah. The farm was a vast land covering today’s Tepearası, Eskiköy, Dalyan, Ortaca, Akıncı, Güzelyurt and all of Dalaman. After Kavalalı Ali Paşa ensured ruling of Egypt passes from father to sons, he owned this farm and it stayed his property. Eventually in 1874, Abbas Hilmi Paşa became “Hıdiv” (mayor) of Egypt and he owned the farm.

Abbas Hilmi Paşa sailed to Sarsala Bay in 1905 with his yacht called ‘Nimetullah’.  Dalaman did not exist at that time; there was a small village, Söğüt, consisting of 30 houses made out of reeds by the sea and a fertile meadow. Hıdiv, who liked hunting, saw the wild animals running around at the vast land loved the area. He built a depo and a pier and also a road that goes from the bay to the farm He planted eucalyptus trees that he brought from Egypt and improved swamps.

After these, Abbas Hilmi Paşa wanted to build a hunting residence in Dalaman and at the same time a train station in Alexandria, Egypt. French architectures were working on these projects. One ship that was loaded with hunting residence materials and another ship loaded with train station materials left the port; however, there was some kind of confusion and the boats accidentally swapped the destinations. The ship that was supposed to go to Egypt unloaded materials in Sarsala Bay.

The workers in Dalaman did not notice the confusion and they loaded camels and horses with the unloaded materials and brought to Abbas Hilmi’s villa. However, because of the confusion they built a train station in Dalaman and the the other team built a hunting residence in Egypt.

Workers finished the building in a short time and planted palm and date trees came from Egypt around the building. Hıdiv was surprised when he saw the finished building in Dalaman; however, he didn’t knock it down although there was no railway nearby and he built a mosque right next to it.

The property stayed his until 1928 when credits taken from Turkish Industry Bank were not paid back, therefore the government confiscated it. The farm was handed over to State Agriculture Corporation in 1938, and the building was used as a gendarmery station from 1930 to 1958. The building, which is on Dalaman-Köyceğiz road and 10 km away from Dalaman river, never met with railways, but contributed to the development of agriculture in the area.

In 1905, Sudanese and Egyptian families were brought to work at the farm. When Paşa lost his farm, some of the families went back, some stayed in Dalaman. The families who choose to stay were given free lands near Ortaca at the time of sale. Today, some of he children of these non-Turkish speaking African families work at the very same corporation (today’s TİGEM) and some of them farm their own land.

Local delicacies

Muğla has a fertile plantation which is reflected on the regional cuisine. Köyceğiz-Ortaca-Dalaman area, where the ECO trails are routed, has a broad cuisine because of using a wide range of plants that grow locally.

Aegean cuisine and regional cuisine are similar in having light dishes cooked in olive oil; meat dishes are also popular. Vegetables and wild growing plants take an important place in regional food. Home made cooking based on traditional ingrediants and dishes such as dried vegetables, pomegranate syrup, molasses, jam, tarhana soup and keşkek continues to be part of the local culture.

Soups:  Çopur (goat meat, butter and garlic), İngil (bulgur, onion and pepper), Ölemeç (fried dough, mint and pepperpaste), Tarhana (dried mix of wheat, yoghurt, bean, chick pea, onion, tomato and pepper).

Vegetable dishes:  Ot ekşilemesi (variety of roasted green herbs and plants served with sour souce), Sığla yoğurtlaması (fresh sweetgum leaves roasted in olive oil and served with yoghurt), Sündürme (boiled wild radish served with garlic and pomegranate syrup), Stuffed squash blossoms (served with garlic yoghurt), Black-eyed peas (served with roasted garlic, tomato and tomato paste, onion, pomegranate syrup), Borani (general name for a mix of roasted or fried pulse, herbs and vegetables), Boiled Tarragon (with sour sauce), Roasted samphire, Roasted wild asparagus (with garlic and fresh onions), Acı ot kavurması (roasted wild bitter herbs cooked with onion, fresh white cheese and eggs).

Mushroom dishes:  Fried Çıntar mushrooms, Roasted morel.

Meat-chicken-fish dishes : Arabaşı (a thick soup made with hunting animal meat or chicken), Döş dolması (stuffed front leg of a goat cooked in clay oven), Ekşili tavuk (sour chicken stew), Topan (meat-bulgur-dough balls served with tomato-pepper sauce), Keşkek (a quite popular dish made with almost a paste of wheat and meet of choice served with red pepper sauce in butter), Blue crab (boiled or grilled with lemon-garlic-olive oil sauce).

Pastries and desserts:  Bazlama (a type of sourdough bread), Gözleme (Turkish pancake), Gıvam (sesame helva with honey), Döndürme (starch pancake served with with grape syrup),  Helvacı kabağı muhallebisi (squash pudding with vanilla).