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I haven’t been to these many weddings in my whole life as I’ve attended here in such a short span of time. Four in less than a week and I could’ve gone to a least a few more if I could split myself in half. Wow. Apparently it’s like this every year after Eid al-Adha (Sacrifice day/holiday) – lots of engagements and even more weddings. You can see how important marriage is here if I tell you that I attended 4 weddings in only one ksar of less than 2000 people. There are more than 20 ksour here… And everyone is telling me “wait until the summer, then you’ll go to three weddings every day.” How is that even physically possible? One for breakfast, one for lunch and one for dinner?

Weddings definitely are a big deal here. They usually last at least two days though these would be considered more modest weddings. Such ’short’ weddings, it seems, are only organized for either already divorced women marrying again or for those becoming a second wife to a polygamous guy but neither of these happen very often. This observation may be grossly exaggerated but this has been my experience so far. If a girl is young and a virgin on the other hand, wedding is bound to be a big jubilation, an event lasting up to a week. Duration of a wedding and the number of guests do not usually reflect financial capabilities of parents, meaning that poor families can and do host just as many people and for just as long as richer families. After all you don’t want people to be angry at you because you didn’t invite them, or because there wasn’t enough food or, god forbid, food was bad. Therefore you need at least a day or two to invite all of your neighbors, friends, and family for lunch or dinner (or both) to make everybody happy. That can mean 300 or more guests in the course of lets say 4 days, which is what an average wedding here lasts.

Lunch invitation (or dinner invitation on the day before the henna party) is the one where you can be almost 100% sure you won’t see either the bride or the groom. It is organized solely to satisfy quantity and prevent evil talk. Thus, because you have to invite everybody you have ever known or met it would be hard to host 300+ people all at once so you want to divide your labour and have people over for either lunch or dinner. Here everything is held in the home of the bride or neighboring houses (when my family organized a double wedding for their sons they had guests in 4 other houses belonging to their neighbours for a week…) where everything is also cooked by the female members of the family and perhaps a few other hired women, if the family has money to do so. Division of sex is strictly observed. Men gather in another house or another, separate part of the same house and their purpose is to read the Qur’an before eating and then going home right after. Women on the other hand know how to make a party. Igdams (drums made of sheep skin) are brought in and there is usually quite a lot of volunteers who want to play on them. There is also at least one woman using two tea glasses and ‘drumming’ them against an elevated silver plate in rhythm. The music they create with these simple instruments is quite incredible and enjoyable especially when joined with signing and dancing. And dance they can…they wiggle their hips and butts like there’s no tomorrow. Because they are usually wearing loose jellabas or koftans they tie a scarf around the butt to accentuate their moving body-parts and to give the body a more alluring figure (much the same as what we do in Europe with tight clothes and deep cleavages). No wonder thus weddings are an affair strictly divided according to gender…if they weren’t they would probably be very boring with men sitting and women serving them as women wouldn’t dance and display their charms in front of men…

After a few hours of this and after drinking large amounts of syrupy green tea and nibbling on cookies and peanuts, water is finally brought in for female guests to wash their hands and start eating. There is no choice of menus or creativity in creating them – first dish is couscous with chicken and sweet sauce made of caramelized onions and raisins, followed by a chunk of cow’s meat cooked in an onion sauce, topped with cooked prunes. Every meal in Morocco would not be complete without a dessert – seasonal fruits. When all this is eaten, everyone leaves and the female members of the family have to clean up and make everything ready for the evening set of guests. Dinner party usually follows a similar pattern, the only difference is that after dinner on the second or third day (depends on when henna ‘party’ takes place) and when groom’s family comes to the house of the bride, the newly-wed couple is finally exhibited. A side note on the ‘newly’ part of the ‘newly-wed couple.’ Marriage ceremonies at least here in Tinjdad are always a two-tier affair. The official signing of the marriage contract takes place on a separate day and it can happen even a year before the wedding party. It is accompanied without any pomp. The couple then legally becomes married though not socially. And this social/public part of the marriage ceremony is the one which makes the couple married in the eyes of the community and thus carries all the weight and importance. In other words, the bride only moves to her husband’s father’s house after the actual wedding party and not after the signing of the marriage contract (though there are exceptions to the rule but very few!). In other words, the marriage can only be consummated after the couple has had the wedding party and after the community has witnessed the bride leaving her father’s house. Thus, the ‘newly-wed couple’ can and usually is legally married for a lot longer but what constitutes the beginning of a marriage here is not signing of a marriage contract but a wedding party followed by consummation of the marriage, the so called laylat al-dukhla (wedding night). Weddings, it seems, are just another example of how divorced official law is from traditions or customary law.

Let me return to the henna party when the bride is prepared – beautified for her first night with her husband. Nagafa (she’s like a wedding planner of the bride) brings the bride clothes, jewelry, puts henna on her hands and feet, and at the end make-up. Her job is to make the bride look pretty and desirable for her new husband. The bride can change 3 or more different takchitas (Moroccan female gown made of two layers of fabric and worn with a big belt) in the course of the evening/night and again the rule seems to be, the more you change the happier people will be. The couple then sits on a kind of wedding altar so that people can take pictures with them. At around 3 am the wedding is over. The groom goes home and the bride sleeps one last day in her father’s house before moving to her new home the next morning. But Morocco wouldn’t be Morocco if her going to her husband wouldn’t be accompanied by singing and dancing by the community. And, if the day after the wedding night wasn’t a day to celebrate your new life and your new self with your girl-friends. The so much anticipated married life then begins for women.

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9.12.2009 22:28


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