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September 28, 2009

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Iraqis celebrate respite with lavish weddings

IRAQ has seen a surge in lavish weddings during what has been the country's most festive and peaceful Muslim holiday in years, with party goers shrugging off security worries and dancing late into the night.

Some 630 couples married at Baghdad's six fanciest hotels during Eid al-Fitr, the week-long holiday after the holy month of Ramadan, the Tourism and Antiquities Ministry said, about the same as the total number wed at such hotels in July and August.

The Eid celebration marked an end to the quietest Ramadan in Iraq since the United States-led invasion plunged the country into more than six years of bloodshed.

Weddings were a much more sombre affair during the dark days of sectarian strife, when people lived in fear of suicide bombers or Islamist extremists who considered the music that usually accompanies wedding processions forbidden.

The ministry was unable to give precise figures for weddings in previous years, but a spokesman said that there had been a dramatic jump in weddings starting this spring.

The surge in weddings was just one element of the unusually festive Eid celebrations this year, with huge traffic jams caused by people visiting friends and relatives and local parks and restaurants crowded with hundreds of thousands of people eating and dancing.

In one wedding last week, Ali Mohammed, a 31-year-old groom, awaited his bride-to-be next to a smart new car decked with flowers, to the beat of a band playing traditional Iraqi music.

"Thank God I was able to hold the wedding during Eid. Everything looks so normal," Mohammed said.

Mohammed lifted the train of his fiancee's white dress and helped her into the car before a procession of cars and buses cruised the Baghdad streets for an hour, honking their horns and stopping occasionally so passengers could dance in the street.


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