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Baja Village and a Pashtun Wedding

March 1, 2010

This past weekend we journieyed to Khurram’s family’s village. They have been the landowners since the village was founded in the mid nineteenth century. The Family was assembling to memorialize one of the family matriarch’s passing, an event which is marked by cooking huge quantities of food and then serving it to several hundred villagers. Baja, in the Swabi district was just a two hour drive away from Islamabad and reminded me a great deal of the villages in the Kathmandu Valley, especially the hills near Pharping. One of the Uncles took us on a tour of the village, and it is full of tiny & winding streets. You round corners and tumble out into boys playing cricket, little children dragging about even younger siblings on one quest or another. Houses are walled off with mud walls and the Khan family has a host of residences with shady courtyards and white walls.

River Washing, Baja

River Washing, Baja

kids in Baja

laborers, Baja

Before we left, Liz and I bought our first shalwar kameez, which we wore in the village. The village is more traditional than Islamabad, so we needed to keep our heads covered when we were outside of the family house.The Shalwar are the pants, the Kameez is the shirt, and the Dupattr is the shawl.

Liz, Jenny & I in our Shalwar Kameez

One of the Aunt’s also has a school for women and girls on the outskirts of the village. In addition education, this center offers skill classes and Quranic studies. We took what ended up being a trixy climb to visit some old “ruins” atop a hall. The hills around Baja differ from those in the K’Du valley in that they are filled with thorny bushes–just the sort of bushes that like to snag on your clothes and cut your arms. And the “ruins” reminded me yet again how ultimately unsatisfying I would have found a career in archaeology :P . They were definitely there, but consisted of walls of what had clearly once been rooms. Not loot though, alas. Throughout the day I supplemented my delicious Pashtun diet with pounds of Burfi and Gulub Jamun..my two favorite sweets in this area of the world. Apparently, there is always one teacher at KMT with a huge appetite, and it looks as though I am that person for this year.

Tam's Farm, Baja

Baja, Swabi Dist.

After a day in Swabi with the immediate Khan family, we headed to a nearby town (still in Swabi district) for the Mehndi for one of the extended family member’s wedding. The Mehndi is one of the stages of the marriage ceremony and is celebrated separately for men and women. For this one, we first went to a house (i think grooms because we were shown the wedding suite), ate, socialized then drove to The Officer’s Club, where the celebrating continued in the basement. In a room full of brightly dressed women, I felt a little dull in my store bought shalwar kameez, but we secured front row seats for the dancing. Groups and individual gals went to the center of the room to dance and folks threw money over their heads, which was then given to the bride. The amount is noted and the married couple must give at least that much or more at the next wedding. Not entirely sure on the exact rituals, but here are some pictures to give you a better idea.

Pashtun Dancing at the Mehndi

dancing at the mehndi

…eventually one of the older ladies had the idea to have the foreigners dance…and much to my complete embarrassment Liz, Jenny and I found ourselves in front of the crowd, facing one of the lovely gals who we’d befriended earlier (also one of the best dancers of the evening). She asked us if we wanted an English song, and recommended it saying “I think it is better”….and then WE LIKE TO PARTY BY THE VENGA BOYS CAME ON!!! oooohhh yes, that was our English song!  And so we managed some sort of dance, women threw money on us and just as we thought we might run off and hide in a corner the song segued into traditional Pashto music..which we also couldn’t dance well to. Eventually we managed to flee. Women told Jenny afterward that our dancing “made [us] more attractive”, it certainly endeared us to the older female set–and other members of the family had already been alerted via text to our performance by the time we arrived back to our host’s house later that night. In case you’ve forgotten how “wonderful” that Venga Boy’s classic is, have a listen!

The next we headed back out for the Walima, which was held at the groom’s family’s house, and celebrates the couple after they have been officially married and spent their first night together. Again, this was celebrated separately for men and women, with our festivities held under a red cloth tent. As the morning went on more and more folks brought up our dancing and how much they enjoyed it..and low and behold we were asked to dance again. Jenny abstained so it was Liz and myself dancing to some pretty silly American top 40 song i dont know the name of. According to Jenny, we looked much improved and received compliments on our dancing throughout the day. Dancing in front of crowds with varying degrees of skill seems to be a wonderful constant in all my travels, and Pakistan has proved to be no exception!…this performance was filmed and photoed, so I wouldn’t be surprised if that footage somehow pops back into my life again :)

the bride's place at the Walima

Ladies under the red tend at the Walima

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19 Comments leave one →
  1. Boris permalink
    March 3, 2010 7:06 am

    Sounds like you’re having a great time already! Question – what are those crazy mushroom-like hut-type things in the picture of Baja right before the wedding pic?

  2. willowmata permalink
    March 5, 2010 5:49 pm

    Wow amazing experiences, and beautiful pictures! I can completely imagine you dancing away…you’ve always had a knack for it ;-)

  3. Eli Horwitz permalink
    March 6, 2010 12:28 am

    Wow Sarah! It sounds amazing. I am looking forward to your next post.

  4. Tariq Zaman Khan permalink
    May 6, 2010 11:33 am

    I am a Lecturere at NUST, Islamabad and hailing from Baja. My villege
    is completely and honestly presented on the web.
    Thank you once again and if possible please come once again.
    some pashto verses for you

    hum ye bera da sataley hum ye taal dey,
    rasha sta leweney os hum pa khpal haal dey,
    za pakhtoon yam, ta khaista ye, de pora da,
    pa dunya kho bas jalaal au ya jamaal dey.

  5. SHAHZEB KHELJI permalink
    September 22, 2010 7:57 pm

    AMZING YAR
    I WILL BE WAIT FOR NEXT POST

  6. SHAHZEB KHELJI permalink
    September 22, 2010 8:01 pm

    WHERE THSE PICTURE TAKEN FROM
    NICE PICTURE NICE WALEEMA AND WEDDING
    ENGINEER SHAHZEB FROM MARDAN 03339887198

  7. aziz ahmad permalink
    February 1, 2011 8:23 am

    i’m from swabi but i like baja more than my own village, because of some personal reasons thanks for making such a good website. and i known one day you well read this

  8. haq nawaz permalink
    March 12, 2011 3:42 pm

    thank you very much for representing this soft image of baja our people are very hospitable and we warm welcome you again and again

  9. Asif hayat permalink
    May 16, 2011 8:42 am

    MY name is Asif , working in Riyadh-KSA as System Engineer, and i am from BAJA. I was googling for some other things, and suddenly i got my eyes on this website. You made my day …and i should must say its a exciting moment reading out your story . Thanks for visiting BAJA, and we welcome you agian…

  10. Anonymous permalink
    July 23, 2011 3:32 pm

    this naveed from baja mosa khel and so glad to find my villagers i love baja.

  11. September 12, 2011 5:32 pm

    Junaid khan

  12. munazza permalink
    October 1, 2012 7:04 pm

    awwww…u visited my village BAJA and wrote beautiful word about my village..thank u a lot..m waiting for ur reply..and we all welcome u again in our village..we all are thank full to u for ur post..waiting for ur next post..

    • Anonymous permalink
      November 23, 2013 6:29 pm

      hi munazzaa are u from baja??

  13. arshad akbar permalink
    October 21, 2012 2:34 pm

    very very great journey, thank u for visiting our village

  14. saleem permalink
    October 25, 2012 6:26 am

    i am saleem from baja thank u so so much u explane my beautiful village and made it more beautiful with ur words i wish u come again thanks

  15. November 12, 2012 12:19 pm

    deer ala zh yam amir sarwar usman khel baja(sarwar shamal) zh ghwaram che dh khpal kali baja num de ph tola dunya ke lka dh nwar zalanda v

  16. May 27, 2013 1:31 pm

    nothinng

  17. May 27, 2013 1:31 pm

    nothing that they do

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