River weddings return to Iraq's Basra
BASRA - To the sound of drums and trumpets, an Iraqi groom and his bride this week stepped hand-in-hand onto a speed boat on the river in Basra to celebrate.
Their wedding on Monday was the first such celebration to be held on the Shatt al-Arab waterway running through the southern city since the 1980s.
Aboard the small speed boat decorated with tinsel and balloons, labourer Hussein Ali Jabbar and his wife donned captain hats and posed for the camera.
Their guests danced away their one-hour ride on four larger vessels to tunes belted out by the brass band and blaring from the television.
It was the first wedding on the river since the devastating 1980-1988 war between Iraq and Iran.
Many continued to avoid the river afterwards, deeming it unsafe amid tensions with neighbouring Iran and Kuwait, and fearing insurgent attacks after the US-led invasion of 2003.
"Everybody in town remembers the river weddings in the past," said Talib al-Bdairy, spokesman for the state company behind the relaunch.
"We want to bring back to life these wonderful memories on these modern safe boats," he said.
The General Company of Maritime Transports did not charge for Monday's wedding cruise as the bride's father was killed this year in the northern city of Mosul fighting the Islamic State jihadist group.
But the going rate for future celebrations will be 2,000 Iraqi dinars (or $1.5) per head.
It was the groom's idea to have a wedding on the water.
"A wedding on the river makes everyone happy... It's much better than being stuck in traffic in the city," he said.
His uncle, Karim Mohammed, offered another reason to celebrate on the Shatt al-Arab.
It "avoids the gunshots in the air that are often how we celebrate a happy event here but often end in tragedy," he said.