White-painted bride honors Bulgarian Muslim rite

RIBNOVO, Bulgaria (Reuters) – Fikrie Sabrieva, 17, will marry along with her eyes shut and her face painted white, dotted with bright sequins. She lives ‘at the conclusion regarding the world’, tending a hardy muslim culture in mostly Christian Bulgaria.

Kiddies view the wedding ceremony of Moussa Babechki and Fikrie Sabrieva within the town of Ribnovo, within the Rhodope Mountains, some 210km (130miles) south of Sofia January 13, 2008. REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov

The remote village of Ribnovo, set on a mountainside that is snowy southwest Bulgaria, has held its old-fashioned cold temperatures marriage service alive despite decades of Communist persecution, accompanied by poverty that forced a lot of men to look for work abroad.

“Other nearby villages tried the marriage that is traditional the ban had been lifted, then again the custom somehow died away — ladies wanted become contemporary,” said Ali Mustafa Bushnak, 61, whoever child came to look at Fikrie’s wedding.

“Maybe we have been by the end of this whole world. Or individuals in Ribnovo have become proud and religious of the traditions.”

Some specialists say clinging towards the old-fashioned wedding party is Ribnovo’s reply to the persecutions of this past.

Bulgaria may be the European that is only Union where Muslims’ share can be high as 12 %. The regime that is communist which would not tolerate any religious rituals, tried to forcibly integrate Muslims into Bulgaria’s mostly Christian Orthodox populace, pressing them to abandon using their conventional outfits and adopt Slavonic names.

The marriage ritual ended up being resurrected with vitality among the list of Pomaks — Slavs whom changed into Islam under Ottoman guideline and make up 2.5 now per cent of Bulgaria’s 7.8 million populace — after communism collapsed in 1989.

But today it’s still done just when you look at the shut society of Ribnovo and something other town into the Balkan nation. Teenagers get back from abroad to your crisp mountain snows, only for the wintertime weddings.

Individuals in Ribnovo identify on their own more by their religion, as Muslims, than by their ethnicity or nationality, additionally the wedding service is a manifestation of these piety. The town has 10 clerics as well as 2 mosques for 3,500 inhabitants.


Fikrie’s family members have already been laboriously turning up her dowry since she was created — mostly handmade knit-work, quilts, coverlets, sheets, aprons, socks, floor coverings.

On a sunny Saturday cold temperatures early morning they hang the things on a wood scaffolding, 50 meters very very very long and three meters high, erected specifically for the occasion from the high, dirty road of scruffy two-storey homes that leads to her house.

Everybody when you look at the town involves examine the offerings: Fikrie’s tiny homeyard has been converted into a showroom for the household and furniture devices the bride needs to give her new home.

The girl and her husband-to-be, Moussa, 20, then lead a horo that is traditional on the main square, accompanied by almost all of the village’s youth.

However the highlight for the ceremony, the artwork associated with the bride’s face, comes at the conclusion associated with day that is second.

In a personal rite available and then feminine in-laws, Fikrie’s face is covered in dense, chalky white paint and decorated with colorful sequins. An extended veil that is red her locks, her head is framed with tinsel, her painted face veiled with and silvery filaments.

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Clad in baggy jeans and bodice shimmering in most the colors of this rainbow, the bride is presented by her husband to be, her mom and her grandmother into the crowd that is waiting.

Fikrie just isn’t allowed to start her eyes wide until a Muslim priest blesses the couple that is young. Liquor is forbidden in the wedding receptions and intercourse before wedding is taboo.


Ethnographers state it really is difficult to date the painting that is bridal, once the communist regime failed to encourage studies into minority ethnic and spiritual teams.

“It is quite most most likely that it’s a tradition that is invented. An associate professor at the Ethnography Institute of the Bulgarian Academy of Science it’s their way to express who they are,” said Margarita Karamihova.

Professionals state Pomaks had identification issues and encountered more challenges compared to the bulk of Muslims in Bulgaria, that are cultural Turks.

“In the 1960s they’d ban Islamic music at weddings, chances are they will never enable conventional clothing, as well as in the 1980s, the entire traditional Pomak wedding had been prohibited,” said municipality mayor, Ahmed Bashev, created in Ribnovo.

Ribnovo’s inhabitants utilized to create an income from tobacco and farming, but low incomes within the poorest EU country forced men to start out searching for jobs in towns and cities in Bulgaria or in western Europe — maybe not minimum to increase money for a marriage.

Outside impacts have already been sluggish to attain Ribnovo and young adults seldom marry an outsider. Another Fikrie, 19-year-old Fikrie Inuzova, advised the ladies, for whom the appropriate age that is bridal as much as 22, aren’t pretty quickly to modernize.

“My sibling wants traveling, begin to see the world. It’s different for males. They could do any. I wish to remain right here and marry.”