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RT Doc filming crews have visited many distant parts of the world and witnessed hundreds of ancient traditions. Some are incredibly beautiful, others mysterious and a few even shocking. Here’s our selection of the most outstanding:

5. Leblouh

Leblouh is the Mauritanian tradition of force feeding young girls to help them become more attractive, at least according to local beauty standards. Dating back to the 11th century the custom is still popular in rural areas. Women known as "fatteners" make female children and teenagers consume copious quantities of camel milk and other fat-rich foods to ensure the girls put on weight. In this culture, they believe that bigger women are more attractive to men, more successful and healthier. Children who refuse to eat will often be subjected to physical punishment. 

 

4. Forced marriage

This custom, widespread in Kyrgyzstan, requires young single men to kidnap their brides of choice and pressure them into marriage. It may be illegal in modern times but it remains deeply rooted in local culture. Because there is no adequate criminal penalty, the custom continues to flourish. Even though some couples do live happily together for the rest of their lives, many women cannot bear the shame of a forced marriage and have been known to take their own lives.

 

3. Living Sati for Indian Widows

In India, there was a time when widows would burn with their husbands on the funeral pyre, that ancient tradition was called "sati". That cruel practice may have been abolished today but life for widows is still hard to endure. They are expected to renounce all earthly pleasures and wear only plain white saris with no jewellery. They are barred from all social events and celebrations. Perhaps worst of all, they are shunned by their families and society. Many end up living in the "widow city" of Vrindavan, where Hindu monasteries offer asylum. Old traditions place many restrictions on Indian widows; they must remain chaste, they can never remarry and become almost invisible to everyone. It is a joyless existence known as "living sati".

 

2. Grind killing

The Faroe Islands make up a picturesque archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean. Despite its quaint appearance, it has one bloody tradition that has earned the people of this Danish outpost the nickname, "Europe's last barbarians". The Faroese regularly kill pilot whales, known locally as grinds. The coastal waters turn red when the custom is in full swing and the practice has shocked the international community. They say that the centuries-old hunt is a celebration of island life and identity. Anyone can take part and the islanders all share the whale meat. The Faroese have even developed a special weapon to kill a grind in the most efficient manner.

 

1. Blood Vengeance

In the Caucasian mountains, the tradition of blood justice has been passed down through the generations for centuries. The only answer to a loved one’s violent death is vengeance. These were the rules established long ago and they remain to this day, despite a modern legal system. The only way to break the vicious circle of revenge killing is to encourage families to accept a complex process of reconciliation. Revered elders from the community form special commissions to try to make that happen but their task is far from simple.