The 19th of May 2016 was quite the day of celebration in Dalyan. For those who were there and were unaware of what was going on around them, it was like chaos had descended upon the usually laid back little town. Dalyan has been particularly quiet this year, as tourism in the local area has suffered at the hands of terrorism and the war in Syria, but on this particular night, the town became the hot spot of Southwest Turkey as people from all over the world screeched into town in their muddy and roughed up rally cars. For those who weren’t there, well, you missed a real treat!
Muddy Battered Cars Arrive in Dalyan
The annual Allgau-Orient Friendship and Peace Rally, which has been operating since 2005, unexpectedly ended up finishing in the small Turkish riverside town of Dalyan. The rally had always intended to pass through Dalyan on its way to Amman in Jordan, where the rally usually ends, but as Syria was deemed impassable due to the ongoing war there, Dalyan became the first choice for the end party destination. The celebrations were twice as intense as the final day of the rally happened to coincide with Turkish national holiday, Youth and Sports Day. The 19th of May and the few days that followed it were possibly the most confusing, loud and raucous days that I have ever experienced in Dalyan, and the town sure had an awful lot of fun.
The Allgau-Orient Friendship and Peace Rally with Youth and Sports Day
I had been advised weeks in advance that a car rally would be ending Dalyan on the 19th of May, but I must admit that with everything else I had going on, I had put the event to one side in my mind. The day was fairly uneventful other than watching the local council putting up staging and laying out seats in Mosque Square amidst obtrusive sound checks of music systems and microphones. It wasn’t until I cycled into town down the riverside path and came face to face with a rather agitated and dangerous looking camel that I came to question what was going on. I was of course aware of Youth and Sports Day, but had covered something similar with Children’s Day which had occurred in April, so the 19th of May wasn’t really on my radar, until the party started!
The Party Gets Started in Dalyan
(The camel will make sense later!)
At an initial glance, the Allgau-Orient Friendship and Peace Rally appears simply to be a car race across Europe and into Asia that just happened to finish in Dalyan. As the cars piled up in Mosque Square after crossing the finish line and the participants took their positions on their car roofs to start drinking, it seemed on the surface to just be a fairly extreme way to have fun with cars. When you look into the event more closely, what reveals itself is an absolutely wonderful cause and a fantastic message to the world, one that easily gets missed as the name becomes shortened to the Allgau Car Rally. After exploring a little, taking some quick snaps on my phone and doing a little research, I decided that it would be criminal not to share this wonderful endeavour with you all.
Rally Participants Take to Their Roofs!
The Allgau-Orient Friendship and Peace Rally calls itself “one of the last automobile adventures of this world”. It is an event for charitable purposes, with the intention of raising wads of cash for various charities in the host country; usually Jordan but in the case of 2016, Turkey. The rally is specifically for vintage and classic cars over the age of 20 and the theme of the event is low budget. With tasks to complete along the way, it’s a little bit crazy, a little bit wacky and full of adventure. What’s more, it brings people from all over the world together as friends rather than competitors and encourages them to help each other to achieve their goal of reaching the finish line. The icing on the cake is that at the end of the rally, the used cars are donated to charity along with any other money raised from the event.
In 2016, 113 teams of 650 participants took part, in 260 cars from over 20 countries across the world. The event began on the 30th of April in the town of Oberstaufen, Allgau Region, Germany, which sits on the border with the very west of Austria, near Lichtenstein. The rally of 260 cars passed through Germany, Austria, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia and Bulgaria before entering Turkey. Two thirds of the rally occurred in Turkey, with the route passing through Istanbul and across the Black Sea region to the east of the country before making its way back west and on to Dalyan. The entire journey took twenty days, with regular meeting points along the way for participants to get together and complete tasks, with the intention of bringing together people from different countries and cultures.
People from Different Countries and Cultures Come Together
In order to take part, there are a number of rules to adhere to. For a start, the cars must be at least 20 years old and not worth more than €1111.11. A rally team must consist of 6 people in 3 cars. Not all cars have to make it to the end, but at least one car must arrive at and cross the finish line. GPS Navigation and motorways are forbidden and all traffic and road laws must be abided. Ferries are prohibited unless otherwise stated, such as the Bosphorus ferry in Istanbul, and any accommodation must cost less than €11.11; most participants simply sleep in their cars. As the rally is for charity, the participants are responsible for added costs, such as return travel, food and petrol and organising their own visas, on top of the entry fee of €222.22 per person. The teams also choose their own route, stopping in marked meeting places along the way to take part in tasks.
If you'd like to see more about the rally itself, watch this video from Mercedes.
The rally is not a race and while all teams need to cross the finish line, winners are decided by a points system for tasks completed, not by who reaches the end first. While the event is for charity, there is a first prize for the winning team, a real live camel! The agitated camel I had come face to face with by the Dalyan River was in fact first prize! The camel, of course, has to remain in the host country and winners of every year so far have donated the camel to a young Bedouin or local farmer to help create a livelihood for a family in need.
The Proud First Prize Camel in Dalyan
Each year, social projects are funded from the proceeds of the vehicles and other fundraising from the rally. Many charities have benefitted hugely over the past 11 years including the Dream Foundation of Jordan, where the rally normally ends. The Dream Foundation fights agains hunger and finds medical care for the poor. Money has also been donated to UN projects and to Jordanian charity “Alliance Against Hunger”. In 2009, one thousand hearing impaired Jordanian children were given hearing aids from the proceeds of the rally. Turkey, as a host country, has benefitted from the charity too. In 2011, sewing machines were donated to women’s schools in Anatolia. In 2012 as part of the initiative “Rally Schools”, a school in Anatolia was equipped with computers and interactive white boards, among other technologies, in every classroom. When the representative from the rally visited the school, he saw that none of the children had suitable footwear and took all 130 of them to a shoe shop and kitted them out with winter boots.
The rally ending in Dalyan was fantastic for the local economy and for the awareness of Dalyan as a tourist destination. The teams had tasks to complete on arrival in Dalyan, including getting to the top of Radar Hill, seeing Iztuzu Beach and travelling the Dalyan Delta to take photos. In particular, they needed to find a picture that had been drawn on a rock in the Dalyan canal. With every participant sharing photos and information on social media, Dalyan was promoted in 20 countries across the world. The rally was also covered by CNN Türk, Best FM and 12 European TV channels, a sure opportunity to put Dalyan on the map internationally. Next year, the rally hopes to make it to Ammam again, with the intention of taking a ferry from Turkey to Israel in order to drive to Jordan, but I think everybody hopes that they’ll all make a stop in Dalyan once again.
Local Turkish Musicians Take to the Streets for the Celebrations
Just to add to the excitement and celebrations, the participants of the Allgau-Orient Friendship and Peace Rally and every tourist and local in the vicinity, was treated a real slice of Turkish Culture as Youth and Sports Day occurred around them. This national holiday, which takes place on the 19th of May every year, commemorates Atatürk’s landing at Samsun in 1919, regarded as marking the beginning of the Turkish War of Independence. Traditionally, each year Turkish athletes carry the national flag from Samsun to Ankara, a journey which takes 10 days, where the president accepts the flag during a special ceremony. Various sporting activities take place throughout the country and youths from high schools and universities sing the national anthem, recite poems, make parades and perform cultural activities like folk dancing and epic dramas to commemorate Atatürk and his companions as they began the national struggle in 1919 that would lead to the establishment of the Republic of Turkey in 1923.
Atatürk Commemorated in Dalyan
This year was a low key affair across the country amid security warnings about imminent attacks by ISIS targeting celebrations, and in Dalyan the festivities were close to being swallowed up by car enthusiasts. Fortunately, nothing happened, the country was as peaceful on that day as it is on most others and the celebrations took place in every city, town and village. For Dalyan, the residents and welcomed visitors were treated to an evening of music, food, celebration and traditional dance. There was quite an audience for the youths of the town, and what a treat for all of us who were there to enjoy it!
Turkish Children Share Their Traditions and Culture
If you are interested in taking part in the 2017 Allgau-Orient Friendship and Peace Rally, please do take a look at their website and make an application if you are brave enough! I must say, it sounds like a lot of fun!