Destinations in Indonesia
The Riau Sahur Bridal Parade: A Unique Ramadhan Tradition
Throughout the fasting month of Ramadhan, Muslims from multiple regions across the archipelago awake before dawn to pray, eat, and begin the fasting for the day. This is also observed in the province of Riau, but in a somewhat different and entirely more interesting form.
Here in Riau, a unique tradition takes place during the nights of Ramadhan Month. In this curious tradition, young people are adorned in complete, traditional wedding apparel and paraded in horse-drawn carriages through the city streets. The couples are not real brides and grooms, but rather consist of two men, one playing the part of the groom, while the other dresses in the gown and make-up of the bride. Carriages are elaborately decorated with woven leaves, paper flowers and colored lights, and carry between one and three extravagantly clad pairs of mock brides and grooms. The procession is accompanied by a crowd of hundreds of joyous villagers playing musical instruments or singing along to the tunes of Islamic songs being played through speakers at top volume.
The Bridal procession awakens citizens at 1:30 in the morning and continues until about 3:00 a.m., or until Sahur, the Islamic pre-dawn meal which takes place before fasting for the day commences. The Riau Sahur Bridal Parade is a tradition that has been continuing for decades. Often time, competitions are held between the various processions in the villages, winners being determined by the creativity and artistry of the decorations and by the number of participants in their particular procession.
In previous times, the Bridal Festival was held every night during Ramadhan, but due to increasing costs, the Parade is now only held once a week during the fasting month. With the creation of the decorations and renting of costumes, make up, speakers and lighting, conducting these activities has become fairly expensive. Therefore, residents of the community usually pool funds together in order to carry on with this unique, cultural parade.
If you happen to be in Riau during this time of year, don’t expect to be able to sleep through the night. So forget the sleep, join the festivities, and enjoy this one of a kind tradition!
One of the last surviving areas where this tradition is observed is on Palas Island, Tembilahan Hulu District in the Riau province.