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Thursday, April 7, 2011

My Bedouin Wedding

If you do not live among a Bedouin community, getting invited to a Bedouin wedding is very unlikely.
That morning I took the bus to Madaba and from there to Ma'ine thinking that the baths of Ma'ine would be there or very close.  When in Ma'ine I learned otherwise and I asked the cab driver to take me to meet some Bedouins nearby so I could get a feel of how they live and get a taste of their culture.  He did not waste any time and dropped me in front of the biggest Bedouin tent I had ever seen, only it was set up for a wedding reception.   Too late to turn back.  There was an old Bedouin looking my way and probably wondering what this stranger is doing in these parts of the world.

What I saw when the cabby dropped me off.

The old man invited me "in" and offered me coffee and tea and while we were chatting some people came by, so I met the groom and his father that a bit later took me to view the dinner preparations which were already under way.   There is a couple of graphical images below, sheep slaughtered.. so be forewarned. 

Kids learning!

The sheep are paying the ultimate price for this occasion.

The groom.

My host, a groom's family friend, and the groom.

The groom and his father.

Well wishers could stop by anytime.  Coffee and tea always ready.

Charcoal brewed..

"Take a picture of the flag" the old man said.  "This flag is very dear to us".

Not so traditional are the rented red chairs.
 My host described to me the timeline of events in a typical Bedouin wedding.  You may want to visit "Anatomy of a Bedouin Wedding" for all the complete details.  There is a video clip too of the host explaining all the event in Arabic which I translated.

 After telling me about the wedding customs, the old man invited me to attend the wedding festivities which I gladly accepted.  The way to accept such an invitation and yet leave room to get out of it is to say "inshallah"  (God willing).  The invitation comes as a way to honor a guest or someone, specially a stranger, it is part of the Bedouin Arab culture.

Some little things in life matter and are in most places taken for granted.  Case in point:  this big reception area offered no facilities.  That meant that I had to manage a ride back to Amman late in the night as Ma'ine nor nearby Madaba offered any hotels.  Anyway, I had to get back to Amman, since it was still very early in the day.  I wanted to get my camera flash and a couple of other items.  That also meant more time for me to evaluate if that was such a good idea.

Well, this was literally once in a lifetime chance to experience something different at many levels.  The fact that you do not get to see the bride and be warned not to take pictures of women in the remote chance that you might see one is one of these rare things.  The women by the way were in regular homes across the field where only the groom is permitted to go at one point and see his bride.

This was an authentic Bedouin wedding untouched by trends of westernization (except for the groom western style suit)..  Back in the city, Amman, a wedding, Muslim or Christian would more resemble western style weddings in terms of packaging, presentation, food and drink, music and dance etc..

So, back to Ma'ine for the wedding festivities.

The bride lives in a nearby village in the Mount Nebo area.  A whole caravan goes out to get her..  Along the route people come out of their houses to see and cheer on.

A baby anything could almost steal the show.. a baby horse!!

It didn't take long to secure the bride and bring her back to Ma'ine.
The next event is one for the groom.  At a nearby friend's house he goes to get bathed and dressed up.  Another caravan follows.  He comes out and sweets are served and then back to the "reception" tents or "houses of hair"  (byout sha3er) as the Bedouins call them.

Below is what they call "Al Zaffa", just what you see, the groom is escorted to the main reception area after seeing the bride.

The groom greets the well wishers.  Again, don't expect the bride to come by and say hello.  It is not in the tradition.  She would be with all the family ladies, young and old, celebrating in the "stone" houses.

It's getting dark, the sun just set and it's time for prayer. 

Chatting, coffee, tea and waiting for dinner.

The one that needs no translation: the universal smile :)

Ladies and gentlemen, well, here just gentlemen:  dinner is about to be served.  What took all day to be readied is about to be consumed in a matter of 5 to 10 minutes.

Yogurt, from a pre-dried "stone" form of yogurt.

Traditional "Mansaf"  can't be more authentic than this!  (from that morning!) The mutton meat is served over rice and bread with the yogurt.  It is eaten traditionally by the right hand while the left hand is kept behind one's back.

Come and get it.

only right hands sharing a meal

Very old Bedouin poem recitation performed by a group of men.

I have captured some of that sound.  You can hear it in another post titled :"Anatomy of a Bedouin Wedding".

the end of Thursday's festivities
Very little goes on Friday.  Some well wishers after Friday prayers and Saturday the couple heads to a honeymoon destination.