This happened at a place in July 2004 in the northern part of the Fars-province high up in the Iranian's mountains. I was invited to a big wedding by a group of Quasqai-nomads, which was definitely one of the highlights on my journey in Iran.
The Qashqai are a Turkish-speaking tribe of pastoral nomads in southern Iran. They migrate between winter pastures near the Persian Gulf and summer pastures on the Iranian Plateau.
One thing is for sure: the Qashqai-nomads take the wedding seriously. Sometimes it runs for 4 - 5 days which is usual for other nomad tribes too. They arrange separate dances for both men and women.
The parents find the marriage partner to their sons and daughters. They make a deal with the other partners parents. Usually they marry with someone within the group. Before the finale decision is made the parents or represents for their parents sit in a tent together with a Mullah to discuss the marriage. This time there was no doubt: all were agreed about the marriage and the atmosphere was great.
Photos. Preparations for the Halay-dance.
Then it was time for dancing. Happiness was spread around. According to Qashqai`s traditions they fill up a small area with small stones, ca. 1 metre, and put wood on the top. So they put on a fire, and the women can start dancing around a fireplace. Sometimes the men join them in the dance too, but this is very seldom.
The fire symbols the moon. The women are like the stars moving around the moon. When the fire hits their feet from ground, they will get rid of the ego and selfishness. When they raise their hands in the air with colourful scarfs, they get holy energy from the sky. So they become satisfied and get a peaceful feeling. The first one who starts dancing is an old woman. Then the other women can join her in the dance. They move their hands and feet in harmony with the music.
Photos. The Qashqai-women from Iran danced so beautiful that they looked like angels from heaven.
This time they didn't dance around a fireplace, but anyway it was beautiful to see them dancing. It's something I never forget. The women looked so beautiful in their traditional colour costumes and they danced so elegant that it was a real aesthetic pleasure to watch them.
The most distinguished about the no mads are the material and style of the costumes. The style of dress differs from tribe to tribe and this variation can be seen in the costumes of both men and women.
Photos. Qashqai-girls dressed in beautiful colourful costumes.
The beauty and decoration of the women's dresses is however usually more noticeable. The function and design of the different types of costumes of men and women in these tribes symbolise their socio-cultural identity.
The women in these tribes weave beautiful kilims, gagims and other types of rugs. They exchange these with the traders in villages which they pass through on their annual migrations. The patterns they use to weave their rugs are transferred from generation to generation, and they still use the old method of processing the natural dyes.
The main reasons for wearing clothes come from the principles of modesty and for protecting themselves against the sun and cold weather. However, in some cultures, clothes bear additional functions. Amongst the tribesmen, simply wearing clothes is now sufficient. Extraordinary ornamentation such as colourful glass beads, coins and attractive purling, are used in special occasions and symbolise the tribesmen's social position and the cultural-economic status, such as age or economic prestige of the wearers. In addition to its decorative purpose, the ornamentation on the women's costumes may also include a charm or a written prayer to ward off evil, and the whole represents both the aesthetic and ideological dimensions of the nomad tribes.
Also in the nomad tribes the black chador is very much part of Iranian tradition. As I noticed at the paintings in Golestand Palace in Tehran the women didn't suddenly start wearing them when the revolution in 1979 begun. It's interesting to observe that the women still wear this traditional dress while men are allowed to drop multiple layers of garments as they used too in the past. If the women go unveiled from top to toe they will be hardly punished. They also need to cover their head.
Compared with other Islamic countries the most obvious difference is the way men and women dress. The dress code is very strict in Iran. The other thing is the absolute sexual segregation of society. Examples of this are separate queues for men and women, separate tents, separate places in the buses (man have to sit in the front and women in the back of the buses). If a man sits beside an unmarried woman in a car, he could be arrested and put in prison. It's allowed to sit in a taxi together with a woman, and there are the one of the best places for man and woman to meet for flirting, and perhaps for more.
Music for the wedding
There are usually one or two flute players who play during the wedding ceremony. They suppose to play for almost 24 hours. To keep it going they use alcohol or smoke opium. The musicians usually retire when they are 40 - 45 years because of exhaustions. This job is so hard that they are not able to continue anymore.
In the middle of the dance the men started to sing load, one by one, and the atmosphere rose up to great heights. They sung with all their heart, and I was convinced that they had strong lungs. Oh my god, they could really sing!
That was really something to admire. The Qashqai-women danced the Halay-dance so beautiful that they looked like angels from heaven. I am glad to see that they take care of their culture, and that the women wear their distinctive colourful dresses, which they don't hide beneath chadors (head scarves). The nomads tribes as the Qashqai`s are still going strong!
Stein Morten Lund, 4 August 2004
In addition to my own experiences, gathering of information and impressions, I have based my articles on several sources:
- Nomads of Iran (book; reprinted 1995 - 2001) - Photos: N. Kasraian. Text: Z. Arshi.
- Culture shock! The guide to customs and etiquette (Maria O`Shea;2001).
- Pars Tourist Agency (www.key2persia.com):
especially thanks to my excellent guide Ali Hussein Manoochehri (from Pars Tourist Agency (P.T.A), Shiraz, Iran )who contributed with information and translation.
- Lonely Planet (www.Lonelyplanet.com)
Facts about Iran:
Formal country name: Islamic Republic of Iran.
Area: 1.64 million sq km.
Population: 68.27 million.
People: Persian (Farsis) (65%), Azari (25%), Arab (4%), Lors (2%), Turkmen (2%), Kurdish, Armenian, Jewish.
Language: Persian, Kurdish.
Religion: Shi'ite Muslim (89%), Sunni Muslim (10%), Zoroastrian, Jewish, Christian, Baha'i (1%).
Government: Islamic republic.
Head of State: Spiritual Leader (Rahbar) Ayatollah Sayyed Ali Khamenei.