Saturday, August 2, 2008

Finding Circassia

I was at a Circassian engagement party in Jordan last night. It was the first Circassian occasion I've ever been to in my life - which is kind of shocking since I'm half Circassian.

Circassians are originally from the Caucasus, the mountains between the Black and Caspian Seas, just south of Russia. In the late 19th century, Russia invaded the region and exiled many of them to Turkey, Syria and Jordan. My family is from the Kabardeh tribe, and half of them ended up in Syria, and the other half ended up in Jordan. I'm from the Syrian side.

At the moment, I'm visiting the other side of the family in Jordan. The engagement we went to yesterday was a family affair. But for Circassians, like for Arabs, "family" usually extends to second and third cousins, so the hall was packed.

Living as a third culture kid my whole life, it was unnerving to see so many people who looked like me and my father's immediate family. I blended in seamlessly - apparently I look quintessentially Circassian. Even weirder was that I was in a hall surrounded by white, Russian- and Eastern European-looking people right in the middle of Arab Amman!

Watching the guys and girls dance to the blasting Circassian music, I felt very much at home. And suddenly, I wanted nothing more than to stay here in Amman with these people. They represented a part of me that I wish I knew more about.

But like it or not, I'll have to go back to Dubai in a few days. So till then, I'm gonna try to take in as much Circassian culture as I can. Right now, for instance, I'm off to learn some Circassian dancing with the cousins.

Here's a video of some Circassian dance (called Jagu) for you. Enjoy!

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