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Production

Once the plateau is reached, the nomads pitch their tents and pile up stone walls around them to protect against the wind. Since the mountains have been covered with the snow for many months, the damaged animal shelters, water and feed troughs, canals, fountains and places of worship are fixed. Wooden jugs are placed at the fountains for passers-by and coops are set up for poultry animals. Animal breeding is a twenty-four hour occupation in the life of nomads. The real masters of the high plateaus are wolves, foxes, jackals and bears which require vigilance at all times. Shepherd dogs are man’s best friend in this regard. Trained dogs with barbed iron collars around their necks are the greatest guarantee against hordes of wolves and other predators. Life in the plateau is a difficult and arduous existence, which involves a wide range of chores, including shearing sheep and goats, milking, cheese and oil production, apiculture, fish farming and hunting. Beside the main occupation of animal breeding, another source of livelihood is the production of harnesses for pack and mount animals made from goat hair as well as weather-proof tents woven from animal hair. Carpet looms are one of the objects that must also be moved during the migrations.

Yörük weaving is nothing more than an expression of the joys and sorrows of nomad life which are prominently displayed in carpets and kilims they weave. The carpets and kilims of the nomads are never large. The reason for this is that the carpet looms have to be assembled and disassembled twice a year. These small carpets and rugs have various themes and depict motifs representing the universe, the environment, camels which shoulder the brunt of migrations, rams, women/mother figures and flowers or nature. The motifs that are found on carpets and kilims attract the interest of art enthusiasts and art historians. These carpets and kilims, which have an important place in the life of the Anatolian people, were used as ornaments and a display of wealth in European mansions and palaces. As items of great cultural worth they are one of the favourite objects of foreign guests.

Among the traditional hand woven carpets of the Antalya region, the Döşemealtı carpets have become almost a brand. It derives its name from the place where nomadic Turkmens take shelter during winter. The reputation of these carpets has steadily grown and they are woven in looms set up in almost every village household. Another carpet which is becoming more sought after is the Barak kilim. This kilim is woven by nomadic villagers who spend winter at the coast of Kaş and summer in the high plateaus of the Elmalı Valley.

The villagers originating from nomads need to know every nook and corner of the mountains like the back of their hands. They have extensive knowledge about the plants and animals in their surroundings. They are highly familiar with the grass and herbs that are most suitable for their flocks and therefore goad them to these areas for grazing.

Animals are considered part of the nomadic family. Each sheep, goat and dog has its own name. Interestingly the herd animals, especially the smartest among them, know their name. They respond to the sound of their names being called by their shepherd or owner. The shepherd who earns the devotion of his flock is also respected by society at large. Herding competitions are held to measure the skill of the shepherds. One of the most famous of these competitions in Anatolia is the herding competition in Hasanpaşa/Tefenni. Surrounding villages also participate in this festival, in which shepherds must bring their flock from the Tostos Hill to the competition area. The competition is held at the Yüğnüm Pond, which is filled with the cold waters of melted snow. The shepherd enters the water first and calls his flock to the pond with accustomed calls. The shepherd, who can first lead his flock through the pond, earns his award and gains the respect of his own and neighbouring villages.

The sheep herding festivals of the nomadic Turkmens have been continuously held since they first arrived in the Taurus Mountains nearly a thousand years ago. As for harvest festivals special tours can be arranged for tourists coming from Antalya so that they can witness these festivals. These tours introduce folk culture and rural areas to the visitor and create an important niche in the local tourism sector.

Among the Turkmen nomads, all the danger spots where wolves, bears and jackals use to lurk have been passed down from grandfather, to father to son across each generation. They also stay away from places, which are known to be dangerous for their flock. The location of bee hives has to be chosen carefully, because it is closely related to the quality of honey that will be obtained. A good product means a good income.

The cheese and fat products are stored in holes dug in the snow or in deep caves sheltered far away from the sun. They are brought out when the time comes to sell them to wholesalers or at the market. Markets are established in the highlands far removed from each other on certain days of the week. In the meanwhile, fairs which are set up in the high plateaus by the nomadic tribes at the end of the migration season are of longer duration and directly appeal to the seller. This is a highly popular and lively event in the migration season in an unforgiving and harsh mountainous geography that becomes uninhabitable when winter sets in. Due to the number of smaller markets and other trading activities these fairs are set up once a year.

Many visitors who are curious about the nomadic way of life come and visit these fairs, and leave with many unforgettable memories.

These markets and fairs have become traditional events in the summer months, where people come from the surrounding counties and towns to sell their fruit and vegetable produce. Portable wooden furniture, simple agricultural and hand tools are also sold in these markets. Nomads often come to sell animal products. It is known from archaeological excavations that smoked deer meat was exported from Lycia, lying to the west of the Gulf of Antalya, to Rome. This also shows that hunting wild animals in the Taurus Mountains of Antalya was an important source of income in ancient days.

Leopards, mountain lions, mountain goats and a variety of birds of prey continued to exist until recently in the impenetrable parts of the Taurus Mountains. Skilled hunters set up traps to catch these animals alive, which were then sold to buyers at a high price. The hides of wild animals such as wolves, bears, foxes, mountain goats and rabbits were the staple goods of the markets in the high plateaus and were exported to large cities like Istanbul, where they were particularly sought for. Large tracts of the Taurus Mountains were designated as a natural park, and the dwindling numbers of animals due to rapid hunting and overfishing are on the way to recovery. Today the Taurus Mountains offer hunting enthusiasts the opportunity to hunt mountain goats in wildlife reserve areas for a certain fee during the hunting season.