- Middle East
ANNUAL GATHERING OF SARAKATSANI IN SLIVEN, BULGARIA
August 28, 2023
Every summer, hundreds of Sarakatsani from different parts of Bulgaria and Northern Greece gather on Karandila hilltop near Sliven in Bulgaria’s Northern Thrace. Sarakatsani, also known as Karakachans are nomadic people native to the Balkans, inhabiting chiefly Greece, while a smaller portion of their population lives in Bulgaria. Most scholars agree that Sarakatsani, native to the Balkans, have ancient origins. According to some, they are Hellenized Thracians, Illyrians and Moesians while another theory is that they originate from Turkic nomadic tribes like Pechenegs and Kumans. However, linguists classify the Sarakatsani dialect as a northern dialect of Modern Greek. They accepted Orthodox Christianity, although Sarakatsani culture includes certain pagan beliefs, rites and customs. Until the mid-20th century, Sarakatsani finally adopted a sedentary way of life and settled in permanent places of residence. Due to the assimilation it is hard to estimate their current population, but it is believed that there are around 15,000 in Bulgaria, while more than 100,000 live in Greece.
BRICK KILN INDUSTRY IN PAKISTAN
March 11, 2023
Pakistan is home to one of the largest brick kiln industries in the world, with more than 18,000 brick kilns in operation across the country. These kilns are responsible for producing an estimated 60 billion bricks a year, which are used to build and construct homes. The workers in the brick kilns are one of the most vulnerable and marginalised groups in Pakistan. Most are unskilled laborers with little or no access to basic services such as health care, education and sanitation, and work in harsh and dangerous conditions. They work long hours, often up to 12 hours a day, and are paid very low wages, as little as US$3 a day. Many of them live on the site in temporary shelters that do not have adequate ventilation and are prone to fire and accidents. The use of child labour in the brick kiln industry is a major problem in Pakistan. According to a study by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), an estimated 4.2 million children are involved in child labour in Pakistan, many of them in the brick kiln industry. Coal is a primary source of fuel for brick kilns in Pakistan, but due to its high cost, kiln operators often turn to cheaper alternatives such as waste plastic, rubber, leather and medical waste. Unfortunately, the use of these materials produces a range of harmful pollutants. These include sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and heavy metals such as mercury, arsenic, chromium, lead and cadmium. These pollutants have adverse effects on human health and contribute to air pollution. They also contribute to long-term problems such as global warming and climate change.
SURVA FOLK FEAST IN THE VILLAGES OF PERNIK REGION, BULGARIA
January 16, 2023
The Surva folk feast in Pernik region takes place each year on 13 and 14 January, marking the New Year according to the Julian calendar. In the evening of the first day, masquerade groups called Survakari head towards the village centre where they light fires, tease and play with the watching audience. Early the next morning, these groups consisting of men, women and children walk throughout the village visiting houses, in order to bring good luck and health, while the hosts await their arrival with meal and gifts. This custom is related to other traditions intended to scare away the evil spirits that are found throughout the Balkans, and that are known as Kukeri in Bulgaria.
BABUGERI IN BLAGOEVGRAD, BULGARIA
January 09, 2023
Babugeri is a Bulgarian pagan ritual which is believed to originate from the Thracian period and continues to be practiced until now. Traditionally, it involves groups of men dressed in elaborate costumes and performing traditional rites during New Year’s and before Lent to ward off the evil spirits that may otherwise bring bad fortune to the community. Although each region of Bulgaria has its own version of the ceremony, they all have the same purpose of banishing the evil forces. Babugeri costumes consist of ornate garments made out of the hair of specially bred local species of goat.
ORTHODOX EPIPHANY IN KALOFER, BULGARIA
January 07, 2023
The Male Ice Horo Dance in Kalofer is held every year on January 6 to observe Epiphany, the day of baptism of Jesus Christ in the River Jordan locally known as Yordanovden. It is believed that all who enter the Tundzha River for the ice dance will be healthy all year round, and those who catch the cross will bring good luck and health to the whole house. People from all over the country gather to witness the ritual, while some of them also decide to take a part in it. It is a rule that the guests must wait for the locals to complete the performance before entering into the river.
BEAR DANCE IN TROTUS VALLEY, ROMANIA
January 04, 2023
The tradition known as Bear Dance which dates back from pre-Christian times is still alive in the rural communities of the Trotus Valley of Romania’s Western Moldavia region. Each year between Christmas and the New Year, hundreds of locals dressed in bearskins perform dances aiming to chase away the evil spirits. While this tradition is still observed in villages where the procession visits every household, in towns it usually takes the form of a parade on the central square, among which the major one takes place in Comanesti. The central act of the Bear Dance is death and resurrection of bears, symbolising renewal, the end of the year and the beginning of the new one.
VILLAGE FAIR ON THE PESTER PLATEAU
August 03, 2022
Bracak, a mountain village on the Pester plateau in southwest Serbia sees thousands of visitors from all over the region each year in early August. Traditionally, Bosniak people from the surrounding villages and their relatives living in diaspora gather here to mark Alidjun, a holiday which is also respected by Orthodox Christians as St. Elijah on the same day. For decades, village fair in Bracak is the place for celebration, arranging marriages and as well showing the family wealth represented in huge necklaces adorned with dozens of golden coins. Nearby is the spring which according to the local legend opened up when Alija Djezerlez, a Bosniak mythical hero, killed a dragon on this spot.
WEDDING IN GALICNIK, NORTH MACEDONIA
July 18, 2022
The Wedding of Galicnik is an annual event held in the village of Galicnik located in the westernmost part of North Macedonia. In the past, traditional weddings of Mijaks took place on St. Peter’s Day and lasted for several days but nowadays it is a part of the Galicnik Summer festival praising Macedonian tradition. Mijaks are the Slavic tribe that historically inhabited Galicnik and surrounding villages that are uninhabited today as the population shifted towards the cities during the 20th century. The wedding celebration which includes traditional costumes, rituals, and dances is keeping this old tradition alive, attracting thousands of visitors each summer. Each year, a couple which qualifies by having a family connection to the village is chosen by the organizers.