The Wedding Crashers
I had only been in Uzbekistan for barely an hour and already we were at a wedding. A big wedding with several newly wed couples. But this wasn’t a case of being a wedding crasher just a case of Uzbek hospitality.
I had just arrived in the town of Andizhan, near the Kyrgyzstan border. I was in the city gardens, climbing a steep hill to get a view over this pretty little city. When I got to the top I thought I had entered a wedding convention for there were ten weddings parties having their photos taken at this scenic spot. As soon as they spotted me, a grin swept over the crowd and before you could say “paparazzi” I was being dragged into the wedding photos.
It was a glimpse into the life of a celebrity. Brides and grooms would grab me and have their photos taken with mes, I felt like Mickey Mouse at Disneyland, except without kids stamping on my oversized feet. I was invited into family photos with long lost uncles and cousins and group photos like I was the King of Uzbekistan (who for all I knew may have been there taking photos as well). Although over exuberant, the warmth and friendliness of these people was amazing. They were not accustomed to seeing tourists and wanted me to join in their excitement of the occasion.
The brides and grooms were all teenagers and seemed slightly overwhelmed by it all, but their joyous family were all golden smiles. And I say that literally for most of them had golden teeth. (In Uzbekistan, as with most of Central Asia it is cheaper to have a gold-capped tooth then to fix any major dental problems). So whilst it wasn’t the traditional bling associated with weddings there was a lot of gold present nonetheless. For cameras they were using big contraptions, which looked like relics from the 1970s. They made a loud “bang” sound, almost gun like, whenever they were clicked. Despite the fact the temperature was in the low 40s, everyone was dressed in their best suits and the women had applied their makeup extremely liberally.
As they moved to the reception I tried to leave, but the families would have none of that. It just wouldn’t be a wedding reception without some bewildered Westerner taking part. Despite the language barrier I was soon dancing away on the dance floor. The music was turned up to eleven and I was busting moves to the Uzbek music. This basically involved moving around in a manic fashion and waving my arms around like I was hailing a cab.
I took my digital camera out and took some photos and this sparked a frenzy. Most of them had never seen such a camera before and were fascinated to find that they could immediately view pictures of themselves on the small camera screen. The children in particular were amazed by this and took lots of joy in taking photos of themselves. It is amazing that the things that many of take for granted can cause such excitement in another country.
Eventually I had to leave, it took time to extricate myself from my new found friends who didn’t want me to leave. I was half expecting to be invited along to the honeymoon. It may not be listed in any guide books but the experience of attending an Uzbek wedding is an unbelievable experience and something I will never forget. If you are thinking of travelling to this part of the world- bring your wedding outfit and more importantly your dancing shoes!