For the ethnic Turkmen of northeastern Iran, a wedding is the event of a lifetime: A flamboyant affair complete with centuries-old customs that bring to life the rich traditions of these once nomadic tribes.
Anyone who has ever attended a traditional Turkmen wedding will never forget the experience. But it’s rare for outsiders to be invited to the celebrations, and get a glimpse of their fascinating customs and traditions. This report accompanies a young couple on their big day. In fact, the celebrations for Mahym Mirzaali and Karim Gorganlidavaji extend over several days and play host to thousands of guests. The Gorganlidavaji family spared no expense and effort in staging the marriage of their only son. But the ceremonies, wrestling matches, costumes, jewelry and music are not just a private pleasure, they are also a way of preserving their age-old nomadic heritage in multi-ethnic Iran. Even if the Turkmens have adopted a more settled lifestyle since the beginning of the 20th Century, they are determined to preserve their cultural identity. From the 10th Century on, Turkmen tribes spread across Central Asia. Today they are at home in the countries located between the Caspian Sea in the west, and the foothills of the Himalayas in the east. About half the Turkmen population of twelve million lives in the young republic of Turkmenistan, another two million are settled in Iran. They share a common history, language and traditions that unite them across many borders.