Kirkpinar Oil Wrestling Festival

Discover Edirne and join Kirkpinar celebrations

Traditional Oil Wrestling

Kirkpinar Oil Wrestling Festival was born in Rumelia in the 14th century. This historical festival is one of the oldest festivals in the world still being held for over 650 years since the first contests in 1360.

Kirkpinar Oil Wrestling

Kirkpinar Oil Wrestling arisen in Rumelia during the Ottoman Empire in the 14th century. It is one of the oldest wrestling festivals in the world with its long history.

Oil wrestling is a type of wrestling which the wrestlers (pehlivan) wear leather pants (kispet) tied with a rope at the waist and cuff, and contest on grass after being covered in olive oil. It is open to men from all cultures, regions and ages without discrimination between language, religion or race. Every year, thousands of people travel to Edirne to see wrestlers' fight for the Kirkpinar Golden Belt and the title of Chief Wrestler.

This festival is a highly recommended celebration of a truly unique tradition. From traditional oil wrestling, to traditional singing, dancing and feasting, Kirkpinar is a must-attend for any visitor.

Master Wrestlers

Master wrestlers (pehlivans) are considered exemplary figures in society with attributes such as generosity, honesty, respectfulness and adherence to traditions and customs. All master wrestlers are trained in the master apprentice tradition.


Kirkpinar Oil Wrestling Festival takes place between the last days of June and the first days of July. It is one of the most important festivals in Turkey and one of the longest running sports events in the world. During the festival, you can enjoy the competitions, folk dance shows, exhibitions and fair organizations in Edirne.

Symbols and Ceremonies

Each festival is launched by the Kirkpinar Master, in a ceremony featuring forty bands of drums and shawms.

The Golden Belt is carried through the city in a procession, and then people visit Selimiye Mosque to prayer.

The master of ceremony introduces the master wrestlers to the audience, reciting in verse their names, titles and skills. Next, the oil man oils the wrestlers assisted by the towel holder, before the warm up exercises and greetings. The wrestlers each wear kispet, thick trousers made of water buffalo or cow leather.

As the wrestling takes place, the drum and shawm bands play the traditional repertoire of the festival.

UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage

Kirkpinar Oil Wrestling Festival was inscribed on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2010.

  • Official Name: Kirkpinar Oil Wrestling Festival
  • Criteria: Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity
  • Date of Inscription: 2010
Traditional Oil Wrestling
Drum and Shawm Band, Edirne