Weddings are a serious business in Uzbekistan.
On our first day in Samarkand, the owner of our small hotel invited us to a wedding banquet. It turned out that her nephew had been married that afternoon, and they were having a feast at a restaurant. We protested that we had no decent clothes, but the proud aunt said that would be no problem. So we agreed to come for an hour or two.
There were over 400 people in the banquet hall. We sat at a table in the corner with the young men, most of whom were already quite drunk. (As a foreign woman, Marcia is considered an honorary male.) Loud music blared and the dance floor was full, including a couple professional dancers clothed in red hired to liven up the act. A professional video photographer was running a camera on a boom that circled the room and sent its feed to displays on the walls.
When we visited Shakhrisabz two days later, we came across another part of the wedding tradition. There is a monumental statue of Timur in the park around the ruins of his huge castle. On that morning (and probably every morning) there were at least fifty couples in wedding dress having their pictures taken in front of the statue. It was like an assembly line, with trumpets blaring and video cameras rolling for each new limousine that pulled up. Each party consisted of the bride and groom and about twenty family members and friends. One after another they would move into position and pose for their pictures. It says a lot for the Uzbek government’s nationalist marketing that people would want to have their wedding pictures taken in front of one of the great mass murderers of all time.
We learned that this was not the only popular place for wedding pictures. Time and again, we would see wedding parties wandering through historic sites, often mausoleums honoring a famous religious or political figure. Some seemed to be doing a tour of the country to have their pictures taken in all the proper places.
We particularly liked the more traditional spots where brides wore traditionally colorful clothing.
In some cases, children also got to go on the video tour in their finest dedication dresses.
One day in Bukhara we heard a lot of loud music near our hotel. We followed the sound through twisty lanes until we came upon a courtyard where musicians were playing and a team of boys were dancing on stilts. They seemed to be a hired team, because we saw the dancers packing up and getting in a car a few minutes later.
On to the next wedding.