Muddy streets, soulless buildings and stunning Rhodope landscapes: at first glance, Ribnovo is like every other Pomak village in the western part of the mountains. However, Ribnovo is like no other village in the Rhodope, or indeed in Bulgaria. What gives the village vitality and a sense of colour, even in the dullest months of the year, are its people.
They belong to the Pomak, or Muslim Bulgarians, community in Bulgaria but what makes them special is the fervour with which they adhere to the old traditions. In Ribnovo, the elderly are treated with the utmost respect, the old men still wear their fezzes and women of all ages stand out with their colourful baggy trousers and headscarves, which have for centuries been the mark of their faith.
Nothing, however, can beat a traditional wedding in Ribnovo, a feast of exotic traditions long extinct in Bulgaria and the Balkans. The strangest and most arresting of them is the attire of the bride – she goes to meet her husband in full traditional costume, her head covered with a red veil and her face hidden under a white mask with sequins.