you shoulda put a ring on it.
The wedding was AMAZING! I may have mentioned this before, but let’s recap. Traditionally, there is a week of celebrations before the actual wedding day. The first party is usually a more intimate affair, with close friends and family, at the family home. The second party, usually the day before the wedding day, is called “The Washing Day” or “Green Day” because the bride usually wears a green dress – although, I’ve only been to one wedding where the bride actually wore green.
Not knowing where I was going or very many people that were going to be at the party (apart from the family that would be, undoubtedly, consumed with all things party), I arranged to arrive with a girlfriend of mine. The hall was large, ornate, and comfortably equipped with soft low-lying couches. The walls and entry ways were adorned with luscious material, draped lavishly, emitting an aura of elegance. After offering our congratulations and blessings to the mother of the groom and mother of the bride (both sisters to the other) sitting in their seats of honour at the entrance, we were handed a small plate of finger food. We found our place, and happily reached for a cup of tea that was being offered as we settled in. The music was delightfully non-deafening. As is tradition, the long runway split the room down the middle, leading up to the beautifully decorated stage where the ornate couch sat, empty, waiting for the entrance of the bride. A dance floor opened up before the stage, inviting and beckoning the party dwellers to bust a move. As we sat back, relaxed, munched on our food, sipped on our tea, and chatted over the music, servers walked around the room with baskets of drink offerings, from water to soda. Soon the baskets gave way to large platters stacked full of expensive chocolate,and later the baskets returned but this time with little bags of money. Ha! Not really. I did make the crack to my friend, which in hindsight, I guess could have been taken the wrong way. But as my life motto goes, “I’m whitegirl! If anyone can get away with it, I can!” My friend turned to me at one point and in an exasperated tone said, “I’m bored! You have to dance with me!” So we danced, the Arab style of dancing that I’m, miraculously, getting the hang of. I asked who different women were in the room, making note of family connections, and clarifying previously known connections. The families are so large here, it’s hard to keep everyone straight sometimes! There was one other foreigner in the room that night, who, from what I heard, is married to a local man. I found her puzzling since everyone around her was wearing fabulous attire, hair in updoes and heavy makeup, while she wore khaki pants, a tshirt, hair half-hazard and not a stitch of makeup. If she was indeed married to a local, I wondered how she could not have known the traditions of the day. I wouldn’t even show up looking the way that she did to a Western wedding, let alone an Arab wedding. It was a puzzle and I couldn’t help but look over at her several times. Look at me, turning into one of the local lookie-loos. After doing my part, working the room, and making sure that people saw me talking to the right people, we made our exit at a reasonably early hour. Knowing that the next night was going to be the long haul, I was happy to bow out early.
The second day was the wedding day. The day that the bride wears white and the groom takes her to his home (or the hotel room, in this case). She officially becomes his wife on this day, in practical living. The party, this time, was held in a European style hotel. Since we were staying in the hotel, I didn’t have far to go once I was ready, and I didn’t have to worry that my hair would get smashed under my scarf. The doors opened at 7:oop.m. but my girlfriends and I planned to make a stylish entrance between 7:30 and 8:00 p.m. Classy as I am, I made my debut by tripping through the door. Thankfully, no one saw me and I elegantly made my way to a mirror and began disrobing. Before I had taken off my outer covering, one of my girlfriends expressed her keen interest in seeing what I was wearing that evening. As I’ve said to many women in the West, the women in the desert are just like us Westerners, we get dressed for other women, not for men. The men don’t really notice, but the women sure do! After sprucing up my hair, checking my makeup and retouching my lipstick, I made my way into the hall. Again, I made my customary greetings to the mothers of the bride and groom. I’ve been to enough parties now that I know that I should say, “What is this beautiful thing?” or if it is said to me first, my reply is, “Not more beautiful than you!” For those that don’t realize that I speak Arabic, it’s a fine party trick to pull out and with it, I dazzle. I wandered through the tables, looking for my friends, and was delighted when my friend’s eyes widened with recognition and surprise, “What is this beautiful thing!” she exclaimed. “Not as beautiful as you!” I replied. “You are so sexy tonight!” I had been nervous about my dress choice, not knowing if it was suitable for the occasion, having been to many weddings but none of quite this calibre. Seeing my friends reaction to my appearance, put me at ease, and boosted my confidence. Soon after, my closest friend arrived. Being an auntie to the groom, she was a V.I.P, awarded the special honourof being seated at a prominent table. Myself, not being a V.I.P by stamp on my invitation, became a V.I.P by association when my friend gave me the subtle nod-over, beckoning me to sit beside her. From that time on, looks were passed my way, “Who is this woman that is sitting at such a table?” My husband, knowing the strength of social connections in this culture, said to me before I descended from the hotel room, “Your goal tonight should be that days, weeks and months from now, the women at that party will turn to each other and say, ‘Do you remember that (insert nationality here) girl from the wedding?’ Make an impression!” It didn’t take long for my opportunity to present itself.
Experience with dancing among my friends has lent itself to the familiarity of the music. An Arab song will begin to play, and I will feel that jump of knowing in the pit of my stomach as I realize that I’ve not only heard the song before, but I remember it, and my body feels drawn to move with it. However, as much as I know the Arab songs, there is still a stronger draw to the English songs. Admittedly, I have fallen out of the pop scene back “home”, not knowing who these new-fangled singers are, nor who is hot or not. I saw mention in an article recently about a video on a public video sharing site that shows a baby dancing to Beyonce’s song, “Single Ladies”. It was only through watching this video that I became familiar with this song, and, I must admit, found it quite catching. After listening, or not really listening, to a few Arab unknown-t0-me songs, my heart and tummy skipped and flipped when I heard the beginnings of Single Ladies emitting from the speakers. I began to dance in my seat, wiggling my eyebrows in friendly flirtation at my friend. She urged me to make my way to the dance floor and dance there. You see, in the hotel ballroom set up, the runway cut through the middle of the room as usual, but the problem was that at the end of the runway was a raised, lighted dance floor. When my friend first suggested my change of space, there was not one single soul gracing the spot of spectacle. However, in a few short seconds, a group of young girls gathered and began to dance. I thought to myself, “Okay, I can mingle in with the crowd and not really be noticed that much.” I maneuvered my way to the center of the girls and began to shake my ample booty. Guess what happened next? No, I didn’t fall off the edge of the dance floor, which thinking about it now, could have happened and would have been MUCH worse. Instead, the girls dancing around me, lowered themselves and sat down on the dance floor, leaving me and one other girl dancing together in full, unblocked sight of about, oh, 300 or more upper crust women. I was terrified, embarrassed and flustered, but what could I do? Well, I worked it, is what I did! Played up to my dance partner, played up to the crowd, working the flirtation angle and eventually relaxing and enjoying myself.
Thinking that I had made a complete fool of myself, I was later relieved to be invited by my friend to dance to a familiar Arab song so that I could showcase my other more-familiar-to-them dance moves. I’m pretty sure that my objective, handed down by my husband, was achieved in full. “Remember that (insert nationality here) girl at the wedding?” will definitely be heard in a parlour or two in the coming days. I can just imagine.
The bride entered at 9:00pm., the dinner buffet was opened at 10:oo p.m. (tables groaning under the burden of multiple meat dishes, pasta dishes, salads, and deserts) and the groom arrived around 11:00 p.m. At midnight, they cut the cake, and shortly after, we took our leave.
It was a spectacular, beautiful, elegant wedding, like none I’ve ever experienced before. As I sat in the room, the sole foreigner, honoured to even be among them, my spirit rose with joy over being invited and accepted into such a rich, feminine culture. I can’t describe how honoured and blessed I feel to be here, and to have the friends that I do.