The exact dates of many of the religious feasts and festivals in Turkey vary because they are based on the lunar calendar. The two most important of these are Seker Bayrami (Festival of Sugar) and Kurban Bayrami. (Eid el Adha). The latter is the most important, and celebrates the willingness of Abraham (Ibrahim) to sacrifice his son (Ishmael). It occurs just after the annual pilgrimage, or Haj, to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. Those who can afford it will sacrifice an animal on this day. Seker Bayrami is one of the religious events in Turkey that occurs over several days. It is a three-day festival marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan, and is a happy time with dining, socializing, and exchanging gifts of sweets.
There are scores of secular festivals and Turkey events each year, many of them with international prestige, and Istanbul events are at the center. In 2005, Istanbul joined other cities like Monte Carlo, Melbourne, and Shanghai as part of the international Formula 1 Grand Prix racing circuit. World-famous dance troupes arrive for one of the most exciting festivals in Istanbul—the Pamukbank Dance Days. Films from nearly 200 countries are screened at the International Film Festival in April.
The Efes Pilsen Blues Festival has several autumn dates in Istanbul, with its 2009 opening being held in the city’s Grand Bazaar (one of the oldest and largest bazaars in the world) and featuring John Lee Hooker. This festival opens in Istanbul and then also travels throughout the country to other cities, including Adana, Konya, and Antalya. This is one of the most popular of the events in Turkey and can be seen in some of the country’s finest luxury hotels and resorts. Similar Istanbul events include the Yapi Kredi Art Festival, which showcases all kinds of music as well as international independent films. Several other Istanbul events occur throughout the year.
The oldest of all Turkey events is held in Izmir during late August or early September. The Izmir International Fair sees music, dance, and other cultural performances as well as commercial trade exhibits ranging from organic farming and renewable energy to electronics and automobiles.
There are also many events in Turkey centered around secular holidays important to the history of the country. One such holiday is the Mesir Macunu Festival is April. This commemorates the curing of Sultan Suleyman’s mother with an elixir containing 41 exotic spices. The number 41 is still significant for the Turkish people.
Other Turkey events include regional harvest festivals for Turkish produce. Most of these occur during the North American summer and autumn. There is a strawberry festival in Bartin in June, July apricot festival in Malatya, and a September watermelon festival in Diyarbakir. The capital city of Ankara is also a center for numerous events and festivals, including film, music, and even a cartoon festival. During May is the International Festival of Culture and Tourism In the town of Selcuk near Ephesus. This region along the Turquoise Coast is also known for its traditional camel wrestling. These events are like rodeos in North America. Local villagers bring their champion bull camels who chase each other and wrestle for dominance in the manner they do when wild and compete for mates.