this evening (tuesday 13th), 7.32-8.00pm, on bbc world service radio island of love (in the the documentary series) (presented by yolande knell)
“Every year, Cyprus carries out thousands of weddings for couples from across the Middle East. The Mediterranean island promotes itself as the birthplace of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, but its popularity as a wedding destination is much more prosaic – it offers civil marriages. Across the Arab world and Israel this concept is virtually non-existent; only religious weddings are allowed.
In Lebanon, a tiny country with 18 different sects, many fall in love with someone from a different religion. The story of Abdul Kader and Rachel is typical – he is Muslim and she is Christian. Neither wants to convert. We meet them as they tie the knot alone at Larnaca townhall.
Another Lebanese couple, Georges and Melissa, could easily marry in church, but are part of a growing trend opting for a simple, secular ceremony.
Along the coast in Pathos, Israelis, Raz and Or, have also chosen to exchange their vows in a civil service by the sea. Their supportive families have joined them here. But other Israelis have been forced to come to Cyprus because they cannot wed legally at home. We meet a bride who is one of over 360,000 Russian-Israelis whose Jewish identity is not recognised by the strict rules of the chief rabbinate. With marriage tourism booming, specialist florists, event planners and photographers help to make wedding days extra special. Many Middle Easterners hope for reforms back home that will allow civil weddings. In the meantime, they head to the Island of Love.”