Each winter, an ancient ceremony called Pir Shalyar takes place in Hawraman Takht, an isolated Kurdish town in the Zagros Mountains. Starting on the 40th day of winter, the festival’s different stages take place over three days during three consecutive weeks after the 15th of the Kurdish month of Rebandan which is usually in early February. This centuries-old ceremony is marking the wedding of Pir Shalyar, a local Sufi mystic and spiritual leader. According to the legend, the blind daughter of the King of Bukhara named Shah Bahar Khatun traveled with a convoy to Hawraman, where she regained her eyesight thanks to Pir Shalyar’s divine healing powers. To express her gratitude, she decided to marry Pir Shalyar, sending the entire village into several days of jubilation and a festive mood. Along with and customs and symbols inherent to Islam and Sufism in particular, traces of ancient pre-Islamic religions such as Mithraism and Zoroastrianism are also present in the complex set of rituals of the ceremony which lasts three days. The hectic days of the festival involve a strict order, in which every step is closely taken and labor is divided among all locals. The wedding festival gathers pace with the sacrifice of cows and sheep on the same morning. Part of the meat is handed to all families who in return offer a dish of ingredients to contribute to a collective meal cooked for everyone in the form of a stew that includes pomegranates and mountain vegetables. To mark the importance of equality, all villagers have the same share from the same food regardless of the class they hail from. The meal is followed by a collective Dhikr, performed by local long-haired Qadiri dervishes. Later, they gather in the house that is believed to be a home of Pir Shalyar for an overnight vigil of poetry reciting.


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