IZNIK — A circular Mongolian tent dominated the center of Iznik, a picturesque town on a lake and surrounded by hills, just a short walk from the small Hagia Sophia church. Iznik, or Nicaea as it is called in Greek, is reportedly named after the wife of Lysimachos, one of the generals of Alexander the Great who captured the city in 300 BC. The old church is the venue of the Ecumenical Council of 325, which established the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. It and the town draw thousands of tourists every year, mostly Greek.
But the city attracted a different crowd Sept. 30-Oct. 2, when it hosted the fourth edition of the World Nomad Games, a competition dedicated to ethnic sports practiced in Central Asia with exotic names such as “kapyshmali aba wrestling” and “Kok Boru.” The former is a blend of judo and traditional wrestling, while the latter is a Kyrgyz game in which players on horseback wearing traditional nomadic clothes and iron helmets try to get past one another with a goat’s carcass, replaced with a dummy in modern-day games. There are also the Kazakh “zhamby atu” (archery on horseback), women’s wrestling (in which the Iranian team took 11 medals) and women’s archery, featuring Turkic amazons wearing headgear of metal and colorful beads. Gastronomy workshops, folkloric dances and children's archery lessons accompany the games, drawing a million visitors to the city in four days.