Muslim Wedding Photos rss

A Bulgarian Muslim Wedding: 7 Beautiful Photos

Bulgarian Muslim wedding night

In southwest Bulgaria, Slavic Muslims—aka Pomaks—hold traditional wedding ceremonies in the winter months. In this photo, newlyweds Selve Kuivashi (left) and Djamal Vurdal pose on their wedding-night bed in the village of Ribnovo.

From NationalGeographic.com
BY Becky Little
Photographs by Guy Martin
April 27, 2016

In Ribnovo, Bulgaria, the traditional winter weddings of Slavic Muslims—aka Pomaks—span two days and involve the entire village.

THE SYRIAN REFUGEE crisis has brought international attention to Muslims in Europe. It’s also given rise to a new wave of anti-Islamic sentiment. But as photographer Guy Martin shows in his photos of Ribnovo, Bulgaria, Muslim communities have long been an established part of the Continent.

The remote village of Ribnovo is one of two in the country that hold regional types of Slavic Muslim—or Pomak—wedding ceremonies. These take place every winter, the traditional wedding season.

Traditional Pomak wedding dance

In Ribnovo, a wedding party does the traditional houra dance for Salve Kgiselova and her groom, Reihan Kiselov.

Ribnovo Pomak weddings last for two full days, spanning all of Saturday and Sunday. Every winter weekend in Ribnovo, you can see people dancing, eating, and building elaborate bedrooms to celebrate new brides and grooms.

These bedrooms, says Martin, are setup early on Saturday morning outside the bride’s family’s house. They’re meant to show family, friends, and neighbors what the couple’s new life will look like—and also to show off: The bigger and more elaborate the set-up, the better.

Bulgarian Muslim bride with traditional makeup

Salve Kiselova emerges with her makeup finished and her eyes closed, tinsel covering her face.

Soon thereafter, friends and neighbors arrive with presents, which they drop off outside of the bride’s family’s house. Martin says the bride’s family also constructs a 20-foot-tall (six-meter-tall) wooden scaffolding outside the house, where people hang “blankets and rugs and carpets and clothes—[some] handmade, some bought—for the new bride and groom to have in their new home.”

Community involvement is key. Martin says the scaffolding, for instance, usually takes “up to 10 or 15 men to build.” Then there’s the task of setting up the bedroom and dismantling it all at the end of the day. “It takes an army of 50 to 60 people each wedding,” Martin says.

After the morning bedroom spectacle, the bride’s family hosts a Saturday-afternoon celebration. Pomaks eat, pin money on the bride and groom, and dance the traditional houra in the village square. Later, in the evening, the bride and her friends might paint their hands with henna. Young people will end the night at coffeehouses, smoking and talking.

The next day, it all happens again. The bedroom set and the gifts come out in the morning; the groom’s family hosts another party in the afternoon.

Pomak wedding bedroom

Outside a Pomak bride’s family’s house, a wedding bedroom awaits its new inhabitants.

But on Sunday night, the bride doesn’t just have her hands painted with henna. She also lies down while her female friends and relatives carefully decorate her face with white paint and jewels—a process called gelina that Martin says can take hours.

Afterward, the bride is lifted to her feet with her eyes closed and walked out of her parents’ house. Martin says that’s symbolic, “because she’s leaving that house and will not come back there to live.”

Young Bulgarian Muslim woman on her way to wedding celebration

Wearing traditional attire, a young woman in Ribnovo makes her way to Letve Osmanova and Refat Rvdikov’s wedding celebration.

At that point a crowd gathers outside, and the bride and groom stand before them for up to an hour, receiving gifts and having their pictures taken (all with the bride’s eyes still closed). An imam might say a blessing or a prayer. Then the bride begins her ceremonial walk to the house of her husband’s family.

“The bride and groom—it doesn’t matter if they live next door to each other or if they live a mile away from each other—will have to walk … while her eyes are closed,” says Martin.

Bulgarian Muslim teens in a cafe

Before the houra dance at the wedding of Fatme Inuz and Feim Osmanov, teenagers smoke, flirt, and cuddle in a café.

Once they arrive, the groom’s family follows the newlyweds up to their bedroom. The groom’s relatives may lift a red veil from over her face—a throwback to when all marriages were arranged—so that they can symbolically meet her.

After that, everyone (finally) leaves the newlyweds be, for three full days.

Pomak Muslim woman with her baby in the snow

In Ribnovo, a Pomak woman carries her baby in the snow.

Today young people in Ribnovo frequently move abroad in search of work—sometimes for part of the year, sometimes for all of it. And as dating becomes more acceptable, arranged marriages are becoming less common. (Some young Pomaks skip the elaborate ceremony for another reason—one that has less to do with tradition and more to do with finances. After all, it takes a whole lot of money to stage a communal wedding.)

Though Martin says that the Pomak wedding tradition is firmly in place, it remains to be seen whether young people from Ribnovo—exposing themselves to new ideas when they move abroad—will keep coming home to wed.

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How Muslim South African Cape Weddings Have Evolved

Capetown South Africa Muslim Wedding

Capetown South Africa Muslim Wedding

By Thakira Desai for Voice of the Cape
FEBRUARY 22, 2016

Cape Town, a canvas of amalgamated cultures, ethnicities, and religions, has over the years experienced many significant changes. With the commercialization of many regions of South Africa, Cape Town has transformed itself into a contemporary city. These changes are evident in the ever popular ‘wedding season’ which takes place across Cape Town during the summer season.

Weddings, specifically within the Muslim community, have adopted a much more ‘organized’ appeal. In previous times, guests knew what to expect; the food was pre-packaged; with meals consisting of chicken, salad – and, if you are lucky, a roll – a cool drink and an ice cream. The tables of guest were also traditionally served Konfyt and snacks.

Today, wedding guests are served five-course meals, with every aspect of the reception venue decorated.

A mother of a new bride, Aziza Allie, describes modern-day Cape Town weddings as “everything has to be a certain way.”

Weddings are big business

Within the Muslim community of Cape Town, couples are more readily usurping western culture. Where previously entire families assisted in the planning and execution of wedding ceremonies, today, it is found that the immediate family residing within the wedding home are the family members who provide assistance. These days, for the wealthy elite, there is also a wedding planner or wedding stylist.

Allie feels that the cost of hosting a wedding reception has increased drastically. The expenses required to host weddings ceremonies, ranging from between R25,000 to R250,000, are so high that many may say could be used instead to purchase a home.

Haniyah Davids, for example, started her own “wedding fund”, choosing to diminish the burden on her parents.

“My husband and I decided to save our money in one account and have a joint wedding. Weddings are so expensive and we really didn’t want to bother our families with money and organizing etc. I felt it worked out better because I had full control of the wedding, but at times I realized it was a costly burden to bear.”

The character of modern-day weddings Allie describes as ‘very stiff’. In contrast, weddings that occurred 30 years ago witnessed the vibrant singing of the cape-Malay Hollandse Liedjies (Dutch songs).

Numerous parents described the cost of modern-day weddings as ‘too’ exorbitant, deeming the reception an ‘unnecessary addition’ to wedding celebrations. Instead, they feel that the nikaah (Islamic wedding ceremony) is “all that is required” – perhaps accompanied with cake and tea for the immediate family. Allie further asserted the importance of the nikaah as the main ceremony of the day.

Allie beseeches couples to learn about marriage; specifically the Islamic aspect of marriage. Also stating that couples should never neglect learning about the deen (religion of islam), an aspect of marriage she regards as ‘vital’ to the overall success of a marriage.

The ‘huisbruid’

As catered weddings are on the increase, the culture of the ‘huisbruid’ appears to be a thing of the past. (Zawaj.com Editor’s note: I don’t know what a “huisbruid” is. I tried to look  it up but couldn’t find anything. Does anyone know?).

Yasmina Jones Sawant, owner of Mina Moo and Baby, who is married for 11 years, met her husband whilst living abroad in London. The two decided to travel to South Africa and make nikaah. Not wanting to impose an unnecessary financial burden on their parents, the couple opted to host a ‘huisbruid’.

Sawant is of the opinion that the choice to host a big ceremony is a personal one. Whilst she prefers to have hosted an intimate ceremony, others may feel more inclined to host a glamorous wedding “with all the frills”.

Sawant recalls that previously family members “would be running around, washing up dishes, and serving wedding guests.” This makes them feel that they are part of something.

Today it could be said that the culture of weddings, with all the “extra trimmings”, appears to distract from the marriage itself – the most important contract that married couples enter into.

“They forget why they are actually getting married and how they are going to spend the rest of their life together,” says Sawant.

Weddings today provide both the family and the wedding couple with a leisurely experience. This has, however, removed from the experience the time spent bonding with family members in the planning stages of the wedding.
Sawant discourages individuals from placing a financial burden on themselves and their parents when planning their weddings, “instead, start a life you can build on, rather than, work for.”

Capturing those moments

An all important aspect of weddings is the ‘photo-shoot’, which could be described as a staple of weddings since the advent of photography. The owner of A&R Photography, Abubaker Abdullah, explains that Cape Town couples no longer wish to be photographed in Cape Town and Claremont gardens. Couples, instead, prefer more ‘alternate’ venues such as vineyards and farms.

Muslim wedding party in Capetown South Africa

Muslim wedding party visits Claremont Gardens in Capetown, South Africa, for a wedding shoot.

Photography in general has altered the capturing of weddings; where previously couples captured one staged moment, couples today choose between hundreds of photos to be placed in a coffee-table book. With the advancement in technology, weddings are captured, moment by moment, from the Nikah to the ‘bruidskamer’.

Couples are, therefore, through the video-graphical lens, able to appreciate and absorb their special day.

Abdullah explained, that as a staple of wedding ceremonies, photographers charge various prices, ranging between R4 000 to R15 000 – depending on the number of photographers that the couple wishes to employ.

Whilst, videography services range between R10 000 to R15 000, depending on the couples preference of having both angles captured – yes, ‘both angles’!

As service providers, photographers are responsible for capturing what can only be described as a couple’s ‘most important day’.

Why we host a walima

Well known Cape Town aalim, Shaykh Abdurahman Alexander, explained that when the bridal couple marries, according to the shariah (Islamic law); it is Sunnah to host a walima. A walima refers to the celebration of the marriage and a celebration of the bridal couple.

The walima, according to Islam, is hosted after consummation has taken place. Within the Western Cape, however, it is common practice for a reception to be hosted after the nikah on the day of the wedding, prior to consummation of the marriage.

The preferred rule according to scholars, however, is to host a feast after consummation has taken place since consummation indeed calls for a celebration.

An important purpose of the walima is the ‘publicizing’ of the marriage.

The walima holds great esteem within the religion of Islam, to the Extent that the Prophet Muhammad (May peace and blessings be upon Him) stated that if an individual is invited to a walima, the invitation should not be declined. [al-Bukhaari]

Shaykh Alexander further notes that the religion of Islam discourages individuals from placing themselves in financial difficulty when hosting a wedding reception or walima.

The Prophet Muhammad [May peace and blessing be upon Him] is reported to have said that “The most blessed nikaah is the nikaah with the least expenditure”. [Bayhaqi]

Importantly, Islam encourages individuals not to restrict the invitation list to the rich and elite within the community, but rather extend the invitation to the poor as well.

The Shaykh, however, noted that one has the right to invite whomever one wishes, so much so that the Prophet Muhammad [May peace and blessing be upon Him] is reported to have said that “Whoever is not invited to a walima, and subsequently invades the ceremony, they are like thieves that break into homes at night.”

The Prophet Muhammad [May peace and blessing be upon Him] mentioned that one must not be wasteful and exorbitant about it; everyone can spend according to their means.

The dress requirement, specifically the dress code of the female, is the covering of the entire body, with the exception of the hands and face. It is however permissible that the bride adorns herself whilst preserving her modesty.

The guests of the couple – males and females – are expected to dress modestly according to the requirements of the shariah.

With regard to the separation of genders at the ceremony, Shaykh Alexander, asserts that the religion of Islam prescribes that no unnecessary intermingling between the two genders take place.

In certain areas of South Africa wedding ceremonies separate the genders with the use of a curtain. There is, however, “no hard-and-fast rule for this” within the Qur’an and Sunnah.

Certain individuals do, however, argue that the guests invited to a wedding are generally close relatives and therefore do not require the ‘parda’; the Shaykh however echoes the sentiments of the shariah which implores that no unnecessary intermingling should occur.

In modern times it is becoming prevalent for Muslim couples to adopt Hindu and western culture. The Shaykh asserts that if customs contradict the teachings of Islam and directly violate the Shariah, then these customs should be banned.

Islam, however, embraces customs that results in the bonding of family ties.

The importance of dowry

South Africa Muslim couple at wedding

South Africa Muslim couple

With the regard to the dawer, mahr, or the more commonly understood term, ‘maskavi’, the Shaykh explained that it is the first gift that the husband gives to his wife, and should not be considered the ‘purchase’ of a wife.

The mahr is mentioned in the Qur’an, where Allah says (which may mean): “And give the women their dowries with a good heart” [Qur’an 4:4]. This is the prerogative of the bride. It is, however, advised that brides not make unreasonable requests. Brides should therefore request the mahr according to the income of her groom.

It is narrated by Sahl bin Sad As-Sa’idi that one of the ashaab (companions) came to the Prophet Muhammad [May peace and blessing be upon Him] and said that he does not have anything to provide to his bride as mahr. The Prophet Muhammad [May peace and blessing be upon Him] asked him if he owns anything, he replied that he owned a small iron ring, which the Prophet Muhammad [May peace and blessing be upon Him] stated should be given as the mahr.

The Shaykh, who has been performing nikaah’s since 1985, explained that the mahr can therefore be anything of value, in the form of money, property, or in the form of a university degree. The Shaykh further noted that in a ceremony, over which he presided, the bride requested that the groom teach her the Qur’an as her mahr. The most popular request in Cape Town is the Kruger Rand or silver coins, with requests ranging from R5,000.

The bride may grant the groom a gift, if she so wishes, which can only strengthen their bond.

Shaykh Alexander stressed the importance of the duty of parents, and implored them to encourage their children who have reached marital age to attend premarital classes.

The culture of marriages has certainly changed; marriages previously lasted lifetimes. Shaykh Alexander alarmingly recalled that he “performed a marriage that lasted one month.”

The Shaykh attributes the current divorce rate to the influx of romanticized expectations of weddings and marriage produced in television programmes. He explains that individuals in the modern era are conditioned to absorb ideas from television. Couples, instead, should take heed of the marriages of The Prophet Muhammad [May peace and blessing be upon Him] and understand its lessons.

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Requirements of Nikah in Islam

Happy Muslim couple

Mohammad Mazhar Hussaini

Mutual Agreement of Bride and Groom

Marriage (nikah) is a solemn and sacred social contract between bride and groom. This contract is a strong covenant (mithaqun ghalithun) as expressed in Quran 4:21. The marriage contract in Islam is not a sacrament. It is revocable.

Both parties mutually agree and enter into this contract. Both bride and groom have the liberty to define various terms and conditions of their liking and make them a part of this contract.

Muslim couple signing the marriage contract.

Muslim couple signing the marriage contract.

Mahr

The marriage-gift (Mahr) is a divine injunction. The giving of mahr to the bride by the groom is an essential part of the contract.

‘And give the women (on marriage) their mahr as a (nikah) free gift” (Quran 4:4)

Mahr is a token commitment of the husband’s responsibility and may be paid in cash, property or movable objects to the bride herself. The amount of mahr is not legally specified, however, moderation according to the existing social norm is recommended. The mahr may be paid immediately to the bride at the time of marriage, or deferred to a later date, or a combination of both. The deferred mahr however, falls due in case of death or divorce.

One matrimonial party expresses ‘ijab” willing consent to enter into marriage and the other party expresses ‘qubul” acceptance of the responsibility in the assembly of marriage ceremony. The contract is written and signed by the bride and the groom and their two respective witnesses. This written marriage contract (“Aqd-Nikah) is then announced publicly.

Sermon

The assembly of nikah is addressed with a marriage sermon (khutba-tun-nikah) by the Muslim officiating the marriage. In marriage societies, customarily, a state appointed Muslim judge (Qadi) officiates the nikah ceremony and keeps the record of the marriage contract. However any trust worthy practicing Muslim can conduct the nikah ceremony, as Islam does not advocate priesthood. The documents of marriage contract/certificate are filed with the mosque (masjid) and local government for record.

Prophet Muhammad (S) made it his tradition (sunnah) to have marriage sermon delivered in the assembly to solemnize the marriage. The sermon invites the bride and the groom, as well as the participating guests in the assembly to a life of piety, mutual love, kindness, and social responsibility.

The Khutbah-tun-Nikah begins with the praise of Allah. His help and guidance is sought. The Muslim confession of faith that ‘There is none worthy of worship except Allah and Muhammad is His servant and messenger” is declared. The three Quranic verses (Quran 4:1, 3:102, 33:70-71) and one Prophetic saying (hadith) form the main text of the marriage. This hadith is:

‘By Allah! Among all of you I am the most God-fearing, and among you all, I am the supermost to save myself from the wrath of Allah, yet my state is that I observe prayer and sleep too. I observe fast and suspend observing them; I marry woman also. And he who turns away from my Sunnah has no relation with me”. (Bukhari)

The Muslim officiating the marriage ceremony concludes the ceremony with prayer (Dua) for bride, groom, their respective families, the local Muslim community, and the Muslim community at large (Ummah)

Marriage (nikah) is considered as an act of worship (ibadah). It is virtuous to conduct it in a Mosque keeping the ceremony simple. The marriage ceremony is a social as well as a religious activity. Islam advocates simplicity in ceremonies and celebrations.

Prophet Muhammad (S) considered simple weddings the best weddings:

‘The best wedding is that upon which the least trouble and expense is bestowed”. (Mishkat)

UK Bangladeshi Muslim couple in wedding outfits

A Bangladeshi Muslim couple in London, UK, wearing traditional Islamic outfits. Man wearing a red and gold colored hat and woman wearing beautiful jewelry.

Primary Requirements

  1. Mutual agreement (Ijab-O-Qubul) by the bride and the groom
  2. Two adult and sane witnesses
  3. Mahr (marriage-gift) to be paid by the groom to the bride either immediately (muajjal) or deferred (muakhkhar), or a combination of both

Secondary Requirements

  1. Legal guardian (wakeel) representing the bride
  2. Written marriage contract (“Aqd-Nikah) signed by the bride and the groom and witnesses by two adult and sane witnesses
  3. Qadi (State appointed Muslim judge) or Ma’zoon (a responsible person officiating the marriage ceremony)
  4. Khutba-tun-Nikah to solemnize the marriage

The Marriage Banquet (Walima)

Traditional foods set out for an Islamic walima.

Traditional foods set out for an Islamic walima.

After the consummation of the marriage, the groom holds a banquet called a walima. The relatives, neighbors, and friends are invited in order to make them aware of the marriage. Both rich and poor of the family and community are invited to the marriage feasts.

Prophet Muhammad (S) said:

‘The worst of the feasts are those marriage feasts to which the rich are invited and the poor are left out.” (Mishkat)

It is recommended that Muslims attend marriage ceremonies and marriage feasts upon invitation.

Prophet Muhammad (S) said:

“…and he who refuses to accept an invitation to a marriage feast, verily disobeys Allah and His Prophet.” (Ahmad & Abu Dawood)

Printed with permission: Marriage and Family in Islam by Mohammad Mazhar Hussaini

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Moroccan Wedding Customs

Moroccan bride wearing a gold dress

Moroccan bride wearing a gold dress, being carried in a litter. Photo by Bruno Barbey, 1984, in Morocco.

Morocco, one of the gems of the North Africa, is the country with very rich and active traditions. Like other cultures of the world, a Moroccan wedding is a great gala event. It’s celebrated with great fun and festivity.

A typically traditional Moroccan wedding process can take up to seven days. It begins with several pre-wedding ceremonies that take place before the actual wedding. According to the old Moroccan wedding traditions, parents would choose the bride for their son. The pre-wedding ceremonies include sending gifts and presents to bride. If the parents of groom are pretty affluent, they send opulent golden jewelry, clothing, and perfumes for the bride.

Another beautiful Moroccan bride.

Another beautiful Moroccan bride.

It is important to note that some of the customs followed in Moroccan weddings have no foundation in Islam. However, the Moroccan culture has adopted those ceremonies and traditions from various cultures including the French.

The “Furnishing Party” is an important pre-wedding ceremony that takes place five days before the fixed wedding date. The Furnishing Party focuses on preparation of the bride’s new home. The party that is primarily a women’s party delivers household belongings such as handmade blanket, mattress, bedding, carpet, frash, Moroccan couch etc., to the couple’s new apartment.

In another traditional pre-wedding ceremony, women and female friends of bride have a party where the bride performs a sort of a “milk bath” to “purify” her. Bride’s negaffa or negassa (female attendants) usually supervise the event. The female attendants, who are usually older married woman, female friends and relatives, help to beautify the bride. They help her dress in a richly decorated wedding kaftan (usually white), adorn her with heavy jewelry, and beautify and darken her eyes with kohl.

According to the Moroccan wedding tradition, the Henna Party or Beberiska ceremony takes place a night before the wedding. The Henna Party is typically for the women of the family, relatives and female friends. Henna artists paint the hands and feet of the bride and her party with Henna. The bride’s hands are painted with intricate designs, which are usually floral and geometrical designs that are meant to ward off evil spirits, bring good luck and increase fertility. The grooms name is often hidden in the henna designs.

The party enjoys tea & cookies, dances on Moroccan music and make merry. Later in the party, the older, married women discuss the ‘secrets’ of marriage with the young virgin bride-to-be. In some ceremonies, the bride is placed behind a curtain to symbolize her change of lifestyle.

Moroccan bride carried in a litterOn the wedding day, sumptuous delicious food is prepared for the guests. The food is prepared in plenty to cater the unexpected guests. The wedding ceremony takes place with great gaiety and celebration. In old times, at some point in the evening, the groom –  accompanied by his family members, relatives, and friends – would move towards the bridal party. They would go singing, beating drums, and dancing. The groom and the bride are then lead to the bridal chamber.

According to another Moroccan wedding custom, the bride would circle her new home three times before becoming the keeper of her new hearth.

In the modern times things have changed a lot. In old Moroccan culture parents would choose a bride for a groom, but the things aren’t the same in the recent times. Young people choose their own marriage partners now. Some of these old Moroccan wedding cultures and traditions have either vanished away or exist only in the rural areas.

Modern Moroccan weddings usually take place at night at big villas that are solely rented out for weddings. The men usually wear suits, and the women don their best caftans made out of delicate laces, and often intricately beaded. The ceremony is full of singing, drumming, dancing, and merrymaking.

Source: HilalPlaza.com

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Market Day on the Tajikistan-Afghanistan Border, and a Tajik Wedding

By Christine and Jelt from their blog

http://christineandjelte.blogspot.com/2010/11/cross-border-markets-and-our-first.html

Cross Border Markets and our First Tajik Wedding

Local children at a wedding in Tajikistan

Local children at a wedding in Tajikistan

It’s Friday afternoon, 4:30 pm and a colleague mentions, by-the-way, that Monday is a holiday as Constitution day falls on Saturday, 6th November. A long week-end with places to go and things to see!! To hell with a two week pile of unwashed clothes! Here in Khorog, every Saturday morning there is a cross-border market, which is the closest we can get to actually visiting Afghanistan.

View from Tajikistan border to Afghanistan

View from the bridge in our village towards Afghanistan.

At 10 am Jelte, Rod and I hail a ‘cab’ and for the price of just one Somoni each (the equivalent of 30c or 20p) we share a ‘golf cart’ – commonly known as a Chinese van – with 4 other passengers to take us to the site of the cross-border market. When we arrive, things are just beginning to come alive.

Standing out in the crowd at the Tajikistan border market

Standing out in the crowd at the Tajikistan border market.

We wander around the few stalls of fruits and clothes and odds and ends. Jelte and Rod sit down to breakfast of ‘choi’ and bread with Halva. Christine is too busy watching one of the stall owners cook ‘pilav’ on an open fire.

A food vendor at the border market prepares pilav broth

A food vendor at the market prepares the pilav: rice, meat, broth, carrots and onions on an open fire.

Within half an hour the market-place is teeming with vendors and shoppers; Afghanis and Tajiks and the odd smattering of foreigners (apparently in the city of Khorog – pop: 30,000, there are a grand total of 20 odd ‘expats’).

Also present, but not in any way threatening, are Tajik police, busy taking photos of themselves and each other. We suspect they are there to keep an eye on the Afghani merchants, who, by the way, look distinctly different from their Tajik neighbours. Beautiful, strong faces and distinctly different clothes, many barefoot on their ‘stalls’ which are just pieces of canvas or cloth laid out on the ground with their wares displayed. The Afghanis are the ones who sell the exotic spices and used American boots.

Afghani spice vendor sets up shop at the market.

Afghani spice vendor sets up shop at the market.

So, our American friends, you know where your tax money goes!! Funny thing; Tajik food is not a culinary delight so we look across the border to be supplied with turmeric, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, screw-pine (bet you’ve never heard of that), ginger root, pepper corns and a host of other totally unrecognizable spices and ground minerals.

Afghani spice vendor drives a hard bargain as critical onlookers stand by

Afghani spice vendor drives a hard bargain as critical onlookers stand by.

On the way back we stopped at the regular ‘bozor’ and stocked up on the usual Tajik staples, dried fruit, dried nuts, lentils, rice, beans, and cheese and bread for the next day’s hike. The local cheese here is the North American equivalent of cheez whizz which I had never tasted until arriving here in Khorog.

Since we arrived, with the exception of just one day of rain, each day has been much like the previous – blue, blue skies, with bright sunshine. The valley traps the heat and by mid-day it’s in the high 60s. Beautiful! And perfect for hiking. Sunday, we are off to Bogev, a neighbouring valley just 15 km away, which has been recommended by expat ‘Bo’ an avid mountaineer and climber.

Gassing up the good old Lada for the trip to Bogev

Gassing up the goo.d old Lada for the trip to Bogev.

The culmination of the climb is an ancient Zoroastrian fire temple, probably @ 2,800m above sea level. The climb was steep and more challenging than we thought. So Christine chickened and hung out on a convenient ledge while Rod and Jelte scaled further to the top of the mountain. Their reward was sighting a couple of grey foxes and incredible views. After our lunch of bread, cheez whizz , dried apricots and pears we made our way down into the valley, to a little village and stumbled upon a wedding party.

Next in line to be a bride?

Next in line to be a bride?

The Tajik hospitality is legendary and after introductions to the family of the bride we found ourselves in a traditional Pamiri House, celebrating our first wedding, surrounded by friends and family who were preparing for the evening’s celebrations. In spite of this, they took time to spread a feast for us and provided us with live entertainment to which we all danced and celebrated.

Hold your hands up high for the bride and groom....

Hold your hands up high for the bride and groom….

We can’t say we were not warned about the proliferation of Tajik weddings. Our co-volunteer, Jeremy, who we met in Dushanbe, said he clocked up 72 wedding attendances in 18 months of living in this country.

So far, every outing has been full of wonderful surprises, especially the Tajiks. We have never felt so safe and welcome in a foreign country; and we don’t even speak any of the languages … yet.

There’s more to the long weekend but, we’ll leave that to our next blog, when, we suppose, we should write something about our work…..

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Tanzania Muslim Wedding, and Beautiful Nature Photos

Traditional Muslim wedding celebration in Zanzibar

At a traditional Muslim wedding celebration in Zanzibar, thumping music, ululating women, and spirited shouts fill the air. Nearly all of Zanzibar's and much of Tanzania’s coastal inhabitants adhere to Islam, while inland populations follow Christianity, Hinduism, and indigenous faiths.

Tanzania is an East African nation one of the oldest inhabited places on earth. Today it has a population of about 45 million, of which Muslims are about 35%. The official languages are Swahili and English. It’s an incredibly beautiful country, with the stunning Mount Kilimanjaro, rain forest, desert plains, and an abundance of wildlife. Dar es Salaam (“Home of Peace” in Arabic) is the largest city and is the commercial center, though it is not the political capital.

The African population of Tanzania consists of over 120 ethnic groups. There are large groups that are descended from Arabs, Indians, and Pakistanis, and there are also small European and Chinese communities. The people of Tanzania pride themselves on their diversity and their ability to live together in peace.

Here are some photos of this beautiful nation and its wonderful people:

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Egyptian Wedding and Other Cairo Photos

An Egyptian open air wedding

Women celebrating at an Egyptian open air wedding

This lovely collection of Cairo photos was posted on Flickr by RvDario, a world traveler and photographer.

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A Kerala Muslim Wedding

A view of a Muslim wedding in Kerala, India, from somewhere near the inner family circle – but not quite inside…

Bride at a Muslim wedding in Kerala, India

The bride and friends at a Muslim wedding in Kerala, India

Barnaby Haszard Morris
December 18, 2010

The Hindu and Christian weddings I wrote about earlier were the ceremonies of the more ubiquitous and integrated faiths of Kerala. If a visitor stays here for any length of time longer than a month, he or she will invariably be invited to a Hindu and/or a Christian marriage by some open and welcoming new friend, such is the ease of meeting and befriending members of both faiths. Kerala’s Muslims, on the other hand, live their lives largely behind closed doors – as a group they are both ostracised and withdrawn, generally living in segregated communities. Grand old mosques dot the landscape and announce their presence five times a day over a loudspeaker, but in public, their faithful tend to keep a dignified and impenetrable silence.

Map of Kerala India

Kerala is a state along the south western coast of India

I am fortunate that my good friend Shibu, who works in the tourist trade on Varkala’s cliff, is Muslim, and has invited me into his life in every manner possible, including the marriage of his youngest sister last year.

In contrast to the Hindu and Christian weddings I have been to, where I was merely an observer, this time I was invited to be an active part of proceedings. Shibu’s family is not wealthy, so the function was to be held at his home in a small village near Varkala; this meant a full night’s work for almost everyone. A couple of cousins joined the catering team and made a massive batch of parathas, the bride-to-be (in her sparkling wedding sari) sat cross-legged and made flower garlands of all colours, and Em and I helped the older kids decorate a bedroom for the new couple. We spent hours taping paper streamers and bright plastic decorations to the walls.

All this was done with an overriding calmness and lack of fuss, even by Shibu as he flitted from station to station checking on progress and performing all unfilled tasks. This carried through to the next day, when I was asked to join the men of the family as they travelled to the groom’s house and formally invited them to come for the ceremony. Before that, however, came an important prayer to remind everyone that we owe all of this to Allah and hope that he will bless the occasion. A priest led our select group, sitting in a rough circle on plastic chairs in Shibu’s yard, his voice deep and barely above a whisper. As he gently intoned his words of praise, the other men quietly responded with ‘Insh’Allah’ and other phrases where appropriate. These were a few moments of near stillness and utter peace; all sounds in the neighbourhood seemed to cease.

We left, and 45 minutes later we arrived at the groom’s house to formally invite him. An economy of words were spoken on either side; everyone seemed to know their lines by heart. After a quick cup of pink water, we 12 piled back into our minivan, and the groom’s extended family clambered aboard four full-size, brightly coloured buses bearing slogans like ‘Total Travel Solutions’ and ‘Executive Coach’. Another 45 minutes and we’d arrived back at Shibu’s, where half of us were dropped and the other half – Shibu and a few seniors – headed to the nearby mosque to meet with the groom and his respected elders to carry out the marriage proper. Neither the congregation nor the bride were present, which I suppose makes the Muslim wedding the shortest of all I’ve been to from an observer’s point of view.

Varkala Beach in Kerala

Varkala Beach. Kerala state is known for its beaches, backwater rivers and lagoons, Ayurvedic treatments, high literacy rate, and cultural diversity.

With both sides of the congregation together at Shibu’s, we milled about under a huge tarp drinking water and exchanging a few words, while the children played (mostly) nicely. As with the Hindu and Christian ceremonies, the women of the congregation wore saris of all colours and designs, while the men stuck to plain pastel dress shirts and starched white mundus. The colour that was so prevalent at the weddings of those other two faiths wasn’t the same here; it was in the trees that surrounded us in the open air. Looking at some of the elderly women sitting patiently, it struck me that perhaps the colour of this particular wedding lay not in the here and now, but in the pasts of their weathered faces.

A short while later the couple arrived, the bride having first gotten married in absentia then met her husband for the first time on the street round the corner. They walked slowly and silently past us, looking very young and uncertain, but a flicker of a smile crossed the bride’s lips as she glanced at her friends and family watching her pass. The couple were seated next to each other at a specially decorated table and served a helping of parathas and beef. As the rest of us moved to sit at the other tables, a chatter started up and grew into a happy, noisy ambience: the calm and dignified air lifted. At last, it was time to eat, to talk, to laugh and to celebrate.

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A Malay Wedding in Singapore

Malay wedding in Singapore

Iqbal and Haslina arrived in traditional Malay costume for the bersanding ceremony, the day's main event.

by Sharifah
reprinted from building bridges

A wedding is like a microcosm of life. Family, friends, hope, past, present and future all meet on that special day.

On my recent trip home, I was fortunate to attend the wedding of my cousin’s daughter, Haslina. It was wonderful to meet again so many people who have been a part of my life, including former neighbors whom I have not met in years.

Though the Malay community in Singapore lives in a thoroughly modern city, much of our heritage still permeates our lives. For instance, weddings still remain big, community affairs. This dates back from the kampung (which means village) days when all the neighbors and relatives pitched in to help with the preparations and celebrations. And relatives from Malaysia, and sometimes Indonesia, made the trip over to spend a few days with their relatives on the island.

The number of guests can easily be between 500 to 1,000 people. We have a large extended family, and my cousin Rashid is active in the community, so his guest list was quite extensive. There was a constant stream of guests from lunch time till dinner time.

Malays have been pretty adaptable people and have found ways to merge or synthesize the new and the old. In the old days, tents were set up in the front yard for the wedding celebrations. Today, most Singaporeans live in high-rise flats and apartments. To accommodate the number of guests, the spacious lobby of the apartment building, or what is known locally as the void deck, is utilized as the wedding venue. I think this is a uniquely Singaporean feature.

Weddings used to be the launching pad for budding musicians who entertained the guests. Today, live music is not such a common feature of weddings. Haslina’s wedding had a band which played Hindi songs, and it was really fun listening to the popular hits.

On Haslina’s side, we celebrate our Malay and Indian Muslim roots, while the groom, Iqbal, celebrates his Pakistani traditions. And this was seen in the costumes and the two groups of musicians and dancers, the kompang and the bhangra, that heralded the arrival of the couple.

Haslina and Iqbal make a wonderful couple, adding another branch to our kinship tree. And thanks to my cousin Rashid and his wife Masita for giving me an opportunity to get close to my heritage and all the folks that I cherish.

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Mass Weddings Grow Popular in Yemen

”]Mass wedding in Yemen

Mass weddings grow in Yemen

In the Arab world’s poorest state, a new breed of wedding ceremony has emerged out of financial hardship.
Oliver Holmes for Al Jazeera, 15 Nov 2010 13:54 GMT

As is customary in Yemen’s highly conservative culture, Muhammed al-Khouja has never met his fiancée. The couple have been engaged for almost two years and set multiple wedding dates, but every time the day draws near, the wedding is delayed. Yemen is full of single young men like Muhammed who cannot afford to marry.

Weddings are pricey in Yemen – bachelors have to pay their fiancée’s family to marry their daughter. The groom and his father split the cost of a dowry to the bride’s father, normally around $5,000, and the family of the groom is also expected to pay for the wedding expenses.

In the capital Sana’a, this means renting a giant beige tent, filling it with cushions, hiring a local band, covering the surrounding alleyways in light bulbs and blaring music out of colossal speakers fixed to street lamps for three days.

Until recently, the groom’s side also paid for sizeable lamb lunches and the guests’ qat, a mildly narcotic leaf chewed during afternoons and especially at weddings, but it is now generally acknowledged that these are unreasonable additional expenses.

In March, Muhammed’s father told him that to cut costs, Muhammed would get married jointly with his three brothers, a growing trend in Yemen, the poorest of all the Arab states. Now the idea has been taken a step further and a new breed of ceremony has emerged out of hardship – mass weddings ranging from 10 to more than 1,500 couples.

1,600 grooms

Last month, in Yemen’s largest mass wedding to date, 1,600 couples tied the knot. The grooms filled a sports hall in the capital, each dressed in traditional flowing robes, with black and green scarves wrapped around their heads and holding long, curved golden swords.

In Yemen, weddings are a single-sex affair and the brides had their own separate parties at home. The couples were to meet later that night, many for the first time.

Yemeni grooms in traditional dress

Yemeni grooms wearing traditional dress and carrying ceremonial swords, take part in a mass wedding in the capital San'a, Yemen Thursday, Oct. 21, 2010. The mass wedding was organized by a local non-governmental group aiming to help young couples facing difficulties with the high cost of weddings and marriage, and was funded by Saudi Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul-Aziz, according to the organizers. (AP Photo)

The event was organised by the Orphans Charitable Organisation and sponsored by Saudi Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz, a brother of the Saudi sovereign.

“All the grooms are orphans,” organiser Abdul Rajeh explained. “Orphans have a really hard time getting married as they don’t have the financial support of a father to help them with the dowry.”

The festivities included a morning of dancing, poetry and short comedic plays and the front few rows of seats were filled with Saudi dignitaries with a sea of the grooms’ black and green headscarves behind them. Even leading Yemeni Islamic scholar Sheikh Abdul Majeed al-Zindani attended, a man the US has labelled a “specifically designated global terrorist”.

Spirits were high and the grooms unsheathed their swords and danced with them above their heads for some of the more popular songs. Verses of the Quran were read and VIP guests delivered long speeches filled with accolades to Saudi Arabia. The kingdom is also Yemen’s biggest funder of Islamic institutions and analysts say Saudi Arabia’s philanthropic work here is part of a wider scheme to exert influence in the Arabian Peninsula.

In addition to funding the event, Prince Aziz donated a generous sum of 200,000 Yemeni Rials ($900) to each groom as a contribution to his dowry.

“By funding our wedding and helping us with the dowry, Prince Aziz is showing us that he is the father of Yemen’s orphans,” said 25-year-old groom Abdul Ghani at the wedding feast. After the morning’s entertainment, the grooms were bused over to a hall on the other side of the capital to enjoy a lunch of tender lamb, soft Yemeni bread drenched in spicy yogurt and sweet pomegranates.

The donation will only cover a fifth of the cost of the dowry Abdul Ghani will have to pay, but he says the money helps. “I’ve been dreaming of marriage since I was a boy. This is the happiest day of my life, we are all so happy,” he said.

Growing trend

Mass weddings are not only a Yemeni phenomenon. Iran has hosted mass weddings since the mid-1990s, in part to aid the poor and in part to prevent young people from marrying late, fearing premarital sex.

In South Korea, controversial Unification Church founder and self-proclaimed “Messiah” Reverend Sun Myung Moon has married tens of thousands of young couples from around the globe.

But mass weddings in Yemen are a cultural craze. As in Iran, there is a fear among Yemenis that if a man cannot afford to marry he will look for sex elsewhere. In much of the country, friendship with a woman before marriage is considered shameful and worried parents endeavour to marry off their sons and daughters as fast as possible.

Bridegrooms at mass wedding in Yemen

Bridegrooms take part in a mass wedding in Attawila, Yemen in 2007. Some 250 couples were married in a celebration funded by a charity run by the eldest son of the Yemeni president.

There is no stigma attached to marrying en-mass and local charities, the government, tribal sheikhs and the military have started organising weddings.

Even private companies have jumped on the bandwagon in a bizarre gesture of corporate social responsibility.

A corporate wedding

MTN, a South Africa-based telecommunications company that operates mobile phone networks in Yemen, has organised an annual mass wedding for its local Yemeni staff for the past few years. At the most recent ceremony, 30 colleagues were married simultaneously.

A senior development manager at MTN Yemen said that the aim of the wedding was to “make employees loyal to the company and to raise morale”.

Yellow posters baring the MTN logo covered the walls of the hall and an MTN jingle from a TV advertisement would occasionally blast out of the speakers. At one point during the ceremony, the CEO of MTN in Yemen appeared on televisions positioned around the room and talked at length about how MTN is “allowing its employees to settle down”.

But at this corporate wedding, the grooms make relatively decent salaries and are not trapped into single life like many of those at Yemen’s charity-organised weddings.

“This is not my real wedding day,” whispered one of the grooms, adding with a smile: “I’ll be married in a couple months, this is just a good party.”

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Wedding Photos of the Fula People of Senegal, West Africa

Fula bride in The Gambia

The bride uncovered (in white in the middle)

Alex Silvester spent some time in The Gambia, West Africa as a Peace Corps volunteer, working on tree-planting and vegetable-planting projects. During that time he traveled extensively in West Africa. In November 2009 he attended a wedding of the Fula people in Gambia. The Fula, also known as Fulani, are a nomadic or semi-nomadic people scattered all across the desert areas of Africa. They were among the first African peoples to accept Islam and today are 99% Muslim, though their actual practice of Islam varies widely.

The bride was Alex’s “host sister.”

Here is Alex’s story. Make sure to click on the photos, as they are quite large and interesting:

A Fula Wedding

I had been waiting all day for this moment. I watched as the women filed into the compound. I asked the man next to me where the bride was. He pointed to a brightly clothed woman. I was confused. My host sister was getting married, but the woman he pointed to was not my host sister. I asked again and this time he said look behind. Then I saw her, my host sister. She stood huddled behind the women wrapped from head to toe in fula fabric (Fula fabric is traditional fabric made by hand by the Fulas). She reminded me of a mummy because I could not see any skin. I do not know how she breathed. It was a hot day and the fabric covered her face. A man picked her up and laid her down on a prayer mat and the official tying of the knot started.

The bride, completely covered in white

The bride, completely covered in white

The wedding began the day before in the bride’s father’s compound (where I lived). It started with a big lunch for all the guests. My compound killed two goats. I never saw my host sister the whole day. She stayed in the house, while everyone else was dancing, cooking, talking, and having a good time. Right before dark, the gifts were brought out and a crier started to count all the presents. My host sister had over 40 buckets, 250 meters of fabric, and 70 bowls not to mention the other household items she received. Each guest brought a present. To me, it seemed such a waste to have some items of the same kind because these people do not have enough money to replace their own broken bowls and buckets, but one woman gets more buckets, meters of fabric and bowls than she could use in her entire life. Later I learned the presents are actually shared with the family and friends.

Around 1 am, a gele (bush taxi) showed up with the groom contingent. After a couple of hours the groom left taking the bride to his village. Women, the bride’s family and friends, go in the car to the groom’s village. The bride’s parents do not go. The women were all crying (extremely uncommon in Gambian culture) because my host sister was leaving her village for good and may be visiting only rarely. Men usually do not go, but my family encouraged me to go to the groom’s village to see what happens next.

Fula groom in traditional wedding costume

The Fula groom in a traditional wedding costume (the fellow on the left, obviously)

The bride contingent stayed the entire morning in a different compound while people arrived in the groom’s compound. The women cooked. The men chatted. The kids chased each other around. Around two, the bride’s contingent showed up in the compound to look at the cow to be slaughtered for the meal. They approved and the dancing began. I helped a man from my village kill the cow and cut up the meat. In the evening the bride and her contingent showed up in the compound as the sun was going down.

I sat in the back watching as a family friend picked my host sister up to lay her down on the prayer mat. All the men were sitting around her. The groom was sitting a couple of rows back. Many men spoke and blessed the two. Then everyone got up and I could not see where my host sister went. Luckily a woman explained to me what was going to happen. I quickly followed a bunch of people as they headed to the open well.

My host sister went through the ritual of what she must do before she can enter in her “married” house. She knelt on each side of the well. She washed her husband’s clothes splashing everyone when she finished. She then went to the cattle field where a kid milked a cow. She finally was able to take off the fabric around her head and put it on the cow. Now she was ready to enter her house. As she approached the door, the groom’s friends would not let her in. The women’s friends must pay the fee to enter which is not more than 2 or 3 dollars but there was a lot of negotiating the price down. Then the women ran in trying to smear cream on the groom’s friends as they tried to escape. The women then took over the house. The bride was in her house and the women stayed there all night talking, eating, and congratulating the bride. The party continued the next day. Fula weddings are always three days, with much eating, dancing and celebrating.

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