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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Anatomy of a Bedouin Wedding

What's good news for two families is in this case very bad news for almost a small herd of sheep as the sheep made the menu honors for a few hundred guests of a Jordanian Bedouin wedding.

I stumbled upon this wedding by sheer coincidence.  I wanted to meet a Bedouin family and see how they lived but ended up meeting the whole tribe.

It was still early morning and the cab driver dropped me off where a Bedouin wedding was to take place.  There was a large or I should say huge L shaped tent or tents, lined with floor cushions to seat guests and they had rental chairs as well delivered for the evening activities.  A large Jordanian flag was in the center of the "court" area and a small stage.  At one point during my visit one elder asked me to take a picture of the flag saying "hatha 3aziz 3aleina" meaning this flag is very dear to us.

A man was at the edge of the tent looked my way as I was being dropped off, curious I guess as to whom this guest might be.  I walked towards him and told him how I ended up at his door step, except that there was no door.  He welcomed me and offered me some tea.

So we sat down on the floor cushions and I asked him to describe the differents activities involved in a Bedouin wedding.  I recorded this almost six minute description as he went through a Bedouin Wedding timeline.  Since it's in arabic, I will give a summary of what he said in english.

On Tuesday, the houses of hair (byout el sha3er), reference to the tents and the animal "hair" they're made of, are brought and set up, as well as the chairs.   Nothing special takes place on Tuesday night.

On Wednesday, the party starts in the evening. There would be some live music, and a lot of people would come.  There would also be what is called "Samer el Badawi" where old Bedouin poems are recited.  These poems are themed on praise, pride and any reference to the bride's beauty is kept on a very conservative side.
The party goes on, tea and coffee are served, and recently, from about 10 years ago they started getting
a videographer to continuously record the event and activities.  Throughout of course the women would be in the "stone" house (modern house), dancing and singing.

On Wednesday the bride goes to the "Salon" where the groom, and groom only, goes to pick her up from the "Salon" and take her to a "hall" where they have a party for the bride.  The groom and his mother offer and put on the bride gold jewelery at the hall event.  The groom is the only male present at this hall.  He would dance with the bride and later take her to her father's house after the "Talbiseh", as this party is referred to, meaning putting on the gold on the bride.

Thursday, which happened to be the day I got there, the  sheep pay the ultimate price.  Dinner preparations start on Thursday morning with the slaughter.  About 250 "mansafs would be prepared for the men and about 50 for the women depending on attendance.

At around 6PM, men and women separately board a number of cars and make the trip to the bride's house, or her father's to get her.  They would be going to the Mount Nebo area.  The groom's party would ask for the bride's hand (these are formalities) and the bride's father would put his head dress on his daughter as she leaves his house and puts her in the care of the groom.
The bride is brought back to the groom's father's house (where all the women gather).

My host omitted that after coming back from Nebo the groom is taken to a friend's house where he is bathed and dressed and another convoy of cars goes to get him with much celebration.

Later dinner would be served and around 10PM the groom goes to his father's house where the bride is celebrating with other women.  There, again, he is the only male allowed to see her, would celebrate and dance and then take her to his house which happens to be 40 yards away.

Friday, people show up after the Friday prayers, they are served lunch, more sheep, and the celebrations end at this point.  The bride and groom would soon thereafter leave for their honeymoon destination.  Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt is a popular spot.  Also Damascus or Turkey.

I was invited to attend the festivities later in the day and to photograph the activities except two things I was warned not to photograph: women (not that they mingle among men) and "happy" firearms that are traditionally fired in celebration but such practice is or is becoming illegal.

So this is the anatomy of a Bedouin wedding.  Another post may describe what actually happened along with some cultural observations and comments and still pictures.

Until then, salamu aleikom.

Anatomy of a Bedouin Wedding.

"Samer El Badawi" I couldn't understand one word and it's supposed to be Arabic!