Hidrellez Festival, Edirne, Turkey

The tour group in Istanbul

I was fortunate enough to be asked to be the photographer and videographer for a tour group going to the Hidrellez Romany Spring Festival in Edirne, Turkey. It was a small group, as many people cancelled, after a woman blew herself up at Bursa Ulu Mosque, just before the participants were due to leave for the tour. But though we were few, we had great fun!

The tour was run by Oriental Istanbul, a tour group specialising in travel, dance and music. The focus of this particular tour was to introduce the group to Romany culture in Turkey, and experience the Hidrellez Festival, held every year in Edirne.

The first two days of the tour were spent in Istanbul, taking dance classes, and generally enjoying the atmosphere. I joined the group on the third day, as they were about to take off for Edirne, where they began with different dance classes.

Turkish Folkloric Fusion class, taken by Yoko Kraliche

Belly Dancing class, taken by Dilara Sultan

Learning to dance with a tambourine

Raw Roman class, taken by Reyhan Tuzsuz

Meltem Guzey taught the group Bulgarian Folk Dance

We entered the Hidrellez Festival grounds, ready to party!

The Romany Gypsies were partying too…

…and there was music everywhere.

People were lining up to have their photos taken with the colourful Romanys

Hidrellez is a very important day for Romanys. They celebrate with street parties all through the night. Gypsy bands play traditional music, and people dance to the 9/8 rhythm.

A fire is lit, and the young men jump over it while making a wish.

For the not-so-brave wishes can be written down, and buried, or tied to a tree branch. In Edirne, the Romany people go to the river very early in the morning, to take a ritual dip in the cold water, or throw their written wish into the river, to send it to the prophet Hizir, who will help them achieve their desires.

We had such a great time on the trip. We spent one evening in the Aga Kosku  Restaurant, 
where Edirne Yuksel and Friends played traditional Romany music for us

Some of our group danced for the crowds in the restaurant..

…and Burcu, one of the group leaders, sang for us

Here is my video of the party

Despite our very late night at the restaurant, we left the hotel a 4:00am the next morning to watch the Hidrellez sunrise ceremony.

People gathered on the bridge at dawn, to throw their wishes into the river…

…while others hung their wishes on a tree.

This was a wonderful tour run by Oriental Istanbul, and I can’t thank the two leaders, Burcu and Yoko, enough for inviting me to be their photographer and videographer for the trip. It definitely felt more like fun than work!

Elizabeth Coughlan

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