My family and I were invited to an Emirati wedding celebration. It is held sometime around 3 days after the wedding agreement is signed and the couple is officially married according to (not 100% this is accurate, but….) Islamic law. I had a major panic attack after the invitation, because I had no idea what to wear to this sort of occasion. In the States, this would be the perfect place to wear your little black dress (or in my case, several yards of black fabric that hides all your baby fat). I just had a feeling that a black dress would not quite cut it here…
I found a beautiful chocolate pant suit that was perfect, but let me get on with this wonderful experience…..
The bride’s father works with my husband and they are also our neighbors. This was a relief to me because it made me feel like there was already some sort of connection and I wouldn’t be dangling alone in this sea of women. When we were invited, the father and sister of the bride came to our house and gave us a paper invitation as well as verbally invited us. I got to talk to the sister and was so happy to finally meet our neighbors. She told me that when we got the the party, to call her and she would seat me and guide me.
When we got the the celebration grounds, the boys went to the men’s tent and Little Bit and I went inside to the women’s party (the men and women celebrate separately…. Islamic law dictates that men and women who are not blood related or related by marriage [husband and wife] should not intermingle – it is harem or forbidden)and I was met at the door by a lady who I thought could be the sister (because when I met her she was covered and now she wasn’t), but I was not sure. I said her name and the lady told me that she was not here yet and would be with the bride. She then asked if I wanted to sit up front. Well, I have no idea, so I followed her; like an idiot, traipsing through this party room sticking out like a sore thumb with every one watching me; to the front of the room. I was seated with three younger women and three older women and my daughter. There was a communication gap, but that was ok, as we understood each other well enough. Looking around the room, I was in awe of all the color and the jublience and the FACES! These are the faces I have been wanting to see! It was so beautiful to see these women enjoying them selves, amongst them selves. There were about 100 round tables with chairs and then a stage at the front of the room. The stage was a “T” stage with a runway and everything, and it was decorated with candles and flowers and a red velvet couch. Periodically, a man would come in to fix the sound system and I don’t think I have ever seen women move so quickly to cover their faces. I completely understand the reason for covering, but it was comical to watch.
The music started and about 20 girls and young women from the crowd got up on the stage to dance. They would tie a sash around their tushie and start swinging their hips. Even the children were doing it. I was a bit taken aback with it as it was very provocative, but it was also beautiful. As an American the only thing I can compare the dance to is what we would see from the ladies from Mexico – where they do that fluid hip shake, foot movement thing that they do. It is mesmorizing, and all the colors and smells made it even more intoxicating.
I did find out that the lady who seated me, is another of my neighbors and she was just fantastic! She set with me most of the night and was very good to me. The older ladies at my table piled food on my plate and bullied me into eating, much like my grandmother would if she were around, and the younger girls just looked at me (nothing new to me). I was surprised by the reaction of several women to me though. As I walked through the crowd, women were touching my arms and petting me like they do my daughter usually. It was the older ladies and I can only assume that maybe it was my fair skin that they felt the need to touch??? I don’t know. I just smiled at them and said Salaam and moved on. It didn’t really bother me, it was just a new experience.
The bride’s sister found me later and she looked just lovely. Her dress was awesome and her hair was beautiful. I was so happy to see her. The bride arrived at 11 pm and when she walked in, they dimmed the lights. She was highlighted by the bright light of a video camera (more like a Hollywood movie camera!) and she literally glowed! Her dress and veil were adorned with crystals and when the light hit them, they shone into the audience. She looked angelic. She would walk a few steps then turn to the guests and pose for a bit then take a few more steps and turn the opposite direction for those guests to see. It took her 20 minutes to get to the stage! Her dress was ruffled at the bottom and she had to kick it to get it out from under her so she could walk. When she got to the stairs and I finally got to see her face, she looked terrified. Her sisters were really good about helping her with her dress, but they could do nothing to help her on those stairs! Once she got up the stairs, she was better, but you could still see worry in her eyes. She was not like a typical bride you would see in America – you know, all glowing and beaming with excitement. She was reserved, smiling, but you could tell she was nervous or apprehensive. She was beautiful though.
The groom came in shortly after she got there and he was just beaming! He was very handsome and looked like a kind man. I had to leave because my kids were falling asleep and I did not get to see the couple together.
I am so happy to have been a part of this and to have been invited. It was such a fun night and an experience I am sure we will never forget. The next day, the bride;s family brought over some food from the wedding. We got a dish of the Bulgar wheat with meat (I don’t know what it is called). To compare it to something American, it smells like chicken gravy and looks like thick gravy (after it has been in the fridge). To me, it tastes like gravy too – only thicker. Blondie and I ate it up – now i need to get the dish back to my friends!
There is another wedding this weekend that we are invited to . I don’t think I will go to this one because it took me 2 days to recover from this one! School starts on Saturday, so I need my rest. I will jump at the chance to go any time after this though!
Photo from web site on photo