A significant wedding in Balbali Village
Wilco Van HERPEN
Balbali Village in Sakarya is a typical Abkhasian village, that continues with typical Abkhaksian traditions in ceremonies.When you ask an average foreigner living in Turkey how many minorities there are living in Turkey, most of them generally come up with around four or five minorities. You can see them counting:
Kurdish, Armenian, Greek, Jewish and some of them might even add Alevi people to the list. But there are more, many more minorities. You have the Arabic Turks near the border of Syria and Iraq, you have the Syriacs living mainly in Mardin and Midyat, you have the Bulgarian minority and so on. Still I did not come to the end of the list. In the area of Sakarya alone, you can find at least 12 minorities varying from Abkhasians, Circassians to Tatars and Bosniacs. I was invited for a wedding in Balbali köy in Sakarya. According to my friend who had invited me to come to Balbali köy, this would be a really interesting and different wedding; something I had never seen before. This would be an Abkhasian wedding. When I arrived the people of the village were still busy with the preparations for the wedding. Men were walking around with chairs, women were cooking food. Looking at the amount of food they were preparing it looked as if they were preparing meals for a platoon. Firewood was burning under huge pans, pans so big that I thought of buying one of them and using it as a bath in my garden. In the pans were at least a couple of hundred kilos of meat, slowly boiling. Another pan was filled with rice, ready to be put on the fire.
Since the wedding was not about to start yet I walked around in the village to see how the people were living here and what an Abkhasian village looked like. According to my friend, Abhaksians are a quite closed community. Generally they did not allow people from another community to get married to an Abkhasian. In the past people obeyed this rule without questioning it but recently more and more people choose their wife or husband themselves. The population of the Abkhasian village gets smaller year after year. In many Abkhasia villages people nowadays sell their houses to anybody who wants to buy it but here, in this village, it was still impossible to buy a house for people like you or me.
Late in the afternoon I returned to the wedding place, just in time to see the bride arrive. She got out of the car and walked towards a house, guided by two young women.
When bride arrives
Once the bride had entered the house all the women who had been waiting for her on the porch followed her and they gathered in the living room. There she was surrounded by the women who were all mumbling. I did not understand what they were saying but slowly the facial expression of the bride changed. What, according to my idea of a wedding, should have been a happy day with a lot of smiles and happy faces turned into a depressive being together ceremony. Everybody was saying something to the bride and suddenly… she started crying. Big tears dribbled over her cheeks and together with her all women in the room started crying. I was in shock, this could not be true. Why was this pretty bride crying? It turned out that, as a part of their tradition, the bride is crying because she will leave her parents’ house and start a “new” life together with another family. Within seconds after the crying scene I saw the bride smiling again and being happy to meet her upcoming husband soon. Soon for her did turn out to be a long time for me because the bride would not see her husband that day. There was a party, a big party that evening and everybody was dancing. Men, women, children; all of them danced authentic Abkhasia dances or were dancing to the music of some Roma musicians.
Dance of the wedding
Then a couple of men started walking around with some chairs and long wooden shelves. They sat down behind the shelves, all of them holding a wooden stick in their hands. Within the circle one man and one woman were dancing. It was a different, strange dance with a lot of feet moves and moving their arms as if they were flying. Once the woman got tired the man would invite some other woman to dance with or both of them would leave the dance arena and two new dancers would continue the exotic and passionate dance. Dancing went on until late. I thought about the bride, being hidden away in the house. Tomorrow she would officially get married.