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Tajikistan: Witnessing a Wedding in Tajikistan’s Winter Wonderland

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Fresh snowy footprints lead to the village of Vankala, near the eastern Tajik city of Murghab in the Pamir Mountains.

High mountain villages in Tajikistan’s Pamir Range are quiet and cold in the winter. Snow leaves many villages difficult to access, and there is little to keep locals occupied. A large number of men are off laboring in Russia. To keep warm, people burn dried manure chips and the occasional block of wood.

Weddings are an important source of entertainment in these austere conditions. Some say weddings take place in winter more often than summer just to offer a distraction. And to prolong the enjoyment, the party often lasts for two days.

In early January, I attended a wedding in Vankala, a village two or three hours’ drive east of Khorog—the capital of Tajikistan’s Mountainous Badakhshan Autonomous Province (GBAO), itself some 18 hours’ drive from Dushanbe, in good weather.

On the first day of Masrur Abzalkhonov’s marriage to Saruvinoz, about 40 or 50 guests gathered at the bride’s house. The guests waited for the groom, welcoming him when he arrived. Once everyone was assembled, the bride appeared and welcomed him. Then, before the assembled guests and a local imam, the bride and groom signed their wedding vows. The groom left to celebrate with close friends at his home, and the bride’s party continued.

On the second day, about 100 guests assembled at the bride’s house for a banquet of plov, a rice-based dish, as the centerpiece. There were also plenty of toasts and dancing. Late at night, the groom takes the bride home to begin their life together.

So if you’re in the Pamirs and hear loud music bounding down a valley, breaking the silence, you know that villagers somewhere nearby are probably dancing to celebrate a wedding and keep their spirits high.

Ikuru Kuwajima is a freelance photojournalist based in Almaty.

Tajikistan: Witnessing a Wedding in Tajikistan’s Winter Wonderland

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