Sunday, November 01, 2009

Jemma'iye - Yezidi's Feast of the Assembly

I finally made it! On my fourth October in Kurdistan, I finally made it to the Feast of the Assembly - the week-long celebration in Lalish where Yzidi pilgrims from all over the world make their way to Lalish. I arrived in Kurdistan in 2006 and within a week of my arrival, a group of professors was taken to this festival. This was the first time the festival was held since the US invasion on Iraq... and the last for some time. Shortly after the festival in 2006, a number of events, including the honor killing of Du'a and the killing of a number of Yezidis on a bus in Shekhan, caused the festival to be cancelled. This year was a special opportunity.

We drove to the start of the road to Lalish. There were cars parked along the road for as far as the eye could see. We abandoned our car, leaving the driver to find a place to park and started along the road into the temple area. Although there are cars here, not everyone could enter. Most pilgrims were on foot, some carrying bedding, buckets, food and all sorts of things. We went on the 11th, but many had arrived on the 7th and many more planned to find a post to camp and stay until the 14th.
Below, one of our group (blond hair) stops to pass some time with some Yezidi boys. There were people everywhere and it was hard to find a spot to stop and rest... and everywhere you stopped, somebody wanted to chat in English... even if they only possessed a few words of English. One such boy went to a booth to buy a disposable camera to photograph the foreigners he had provided "translation" for. 
From here, we started to climb in order to find a good view of the proceedings. There were people everywhere: people sleeping, cooking and eating, putting on makeup behind make-shift screens, then  going out and flirting and returning to apply more make-up. As Yezidis are only able to marry other Yezidis, this festival is one of the main places where the young can find their future spouses. 
These little girls were members of a lucky group which managed to get a spot on the balcony of a building where they could have relative privacy... Others camped in more open spots, pitching tents made of sticks and blankets. 
In truth, I came hoping to see the special sama, a sort of sacred dance where the Baba Sheik dressed in a black robe and a head gear leads the elders (in white) around the sacred fire 7 times (to represent the 7 archangels?). Onlookers then kiss their hands and press them to their forheads and offer praise to Melek Taus, the peacock angel. Unfortunately, the crowd was wearing and we were quickly tired. We tried to return to the main area (below) to find a stall to get some tea, but on the way down the narrow and steep hill, we were pushed, shoved, groped and were witness to children being nearly trampled. And yet, some of the kids in the midst of this melee seemed to be having the time of their lives. 
Not so our group: by the time we reached the bottom, we decided to skip tea and head home. I must recommend that if you have never been to Lalish, it is best to go when there is no festival taking place for your first visit. 

1 comment:

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