I was so tired in the morning that I just wanted to sleep again after breakfast. Pari had made us creamy porridge and had given us the usual side dishes of fruit, nuts and tea. When I woke again, Panj had arrived telling us we had to leave for the wedding. We rushed about, put on our best clothes—which were shamefully dirty and not at all smart (for me it was exactly the same clothes I had slept in)—and we jumped on our bikes to cycle 5km back down the valley to the village of Dorj (a village so new it’s not on my map). I was feeling pretty drained so I lagged behind a fair bit. Anyway, my bike is horrible to ride without the pannier bags—so jittery. We could see others going to the wedding from different villages, mainly women in their bright, flowery dresses, juxtaposed to the dusty, barren road they were walking on. One packed Lada passed us, and through the trail of dust it left, a guy hanging precariously on the back standing on the bumper. We passed it only minutes later when it had broken down. It’s apparently common here that guests can’t make it to weddings because their cars die on the way or the problems with the road are too severe to pass. When we arrived it was clear we needn’t have worried about our dress since all the men looked like they had also slept in their clothes. Some guys even had tracksuit trousers and baseball caps! The women were, as usual, dressed rather well.
We found our way through surprisingly diverse patches of vegetables, herbs and fruit trees to the few houses in the village. There must have been over 100 people there. Immediately we were ushered into one of the houses. Women on the left, men on the right, all of us sitting cross-legged, chatting and eating huge amounts of food. The headboard read 2014. It would have made a fine painting. I did have my camera, but I didn’t dare take a picture. Something in the women’s faces told me they wouldn’t like it. It can be hard sometimes to experience such a picturesque moment without photographing it. There were many eyes on us, out of curiosity. But everyone we spoke to was extremely friendly. And we were being treated like kings. Actually, when we waddled outside, they kicked two people off the only two chairs so Antoine and Nick could have a seat on what would be the stage if there was one. The only other chairs were reserved for the musicians.
Many women were now dancing in the hot sun. The music at first was an oddly psychedelic wailing and the dancing resembled something of a spiritual rite.
The proud groom arrived shortly after to the sound of women banging drums and chanting. He was thankfully much more smartly dressed than the rest, and made his way to his personal feast at the back.
There are only 20 families in this village, and no electricity yet. So a generator was set up for the musicians, but it had a habit of cutting out a lot, making the situation quite comical. The toilet was also funny. There was only one, a hole in the ground, and it didn’t have a door. I suppose you can imagine the predicament we were in having eaten so much food.
The atmosphere was joyous though. And many people could actually speak English quite well. I’m told that out of the Pamirs, the Bartang valley has the highest level of English. One such person came over to say he loved ACDC and Metallica and Rammstein, with interludes from a clear plastic bottle of vodka and smoking something that wasn’t tobacco or weed. Then he puked all over the lovely grass. But on the whole, the guests were sober.
It was about this time that the bride emerged and walked with her new husband, being showered in sand and cheers on the way to their car. She was wearing a bright red dress and was veiled the whole time. How did he know it was the right woman? (I’m genuinely curious.) She had been sitting inside the whole time, coming out only at the end. Seems like a Tajik woman has fun at every wedding except her own. There were no speeches, no first dance and no cake.
After they had left, we made our way inside with some others to be treated to the leftovers of the celebration. There we met an interesting guy, a sports journalist/reporter working in Dushanbe (the capital) who told Antoine news of the football from distant lands. (It was otherwise impossible to find out these things in such a remote place.) He had come back home for the wedding, but was full of complaint about the length of his holiday because it takes him 2 days just to get from Dushanbe here. There is not a quicker way, being so mountainous, except by helicopter, which he said is 80 or 90 dollars. Quite cheap, I thought. And looking at the man I would have said he made about 1000 dollars a month. In fact, he made 80 dollars a month. That’s a good salary here. And he’s not paying 2 months wages to save four days.
In spite of this, they definitely know how to have a good time. It was here in the impromptu after-hours that the real fun began. A few musicians started playing the guitar and drum and a few people always got up to dance, including, obviously, Antoine. With his trademark screwing-in-the-lightbulb-while-being-electricuted dance.
Many guests were quite impressed.