So one of my wife’s employees invited her and me to his wedding last night. She wanted to make an appearance despite not knowing him terribly well, so as soon as she was off work, we scrubbed up, dressed up, and headed out.
What the groom (or anyone else for that matter) failed to tell us however was that it was to be a traditional Muslim ceremony. This we found out when we arrived.
We arrived and walked in together, of course. This turned out to be a mistake. Ami recognized a few coworkers, and we quickly made our way to that table where, after Ami had a quick conversation, I was informed that I was in the wrong room, which further explained the strange looks I had received which I had just chalked up to being the only non-Arabs present.
My first lesson in Muslim weddings: women and children in one room, men in the other. So I was shown around the corner of the building to the alley entrance for the men. Given that I had absolutely NO connection to anybody in that room (I’m not even from the same culture), I instead just went straight home and left Ami to make her appearance in the woman’s room.
But just because I was only there for a couple minutes, doesn’t mean that I didn’t learn a few things. First thing, obviously, is that the sexes are segregated. What I found interesting though was the arrangement of the room.
The bride and groom were seated at the head of the room, removed from the guests, on some sort of raised and highly decorated dais, much as a king and queen reigning over their subjects.
The photo above is not from last night: I found it on Google, and in fact it’s an Iranian wedding, so it’s not quite spot on, but it’s the only such photo I could find that came close to showing the astounding amount of color. None of the women were wearing burqas as I’m sure at least one reader will have thought that they were – they were instead all wearing very brightly colored dresses with matching headscarves (which I understand is called a hajib). Brightly colored fabrics seemed to be the order of the day.
The clothes weren’t the only decorations worn by the women. There were of course henna tattoos of every fashion, shape and size [for those that don’t know, henna is a traditional tattoo worn by women in middle-eastern countries. It’s rather sienna in color and from my understanding lasts about 2-3 weeks].
I was actually surprised at one thing, and I’ll have to struggle to find a way to say this without sounding racist: the whole thing seemed much more closely matched with my mental conception of Indian or Hindu culture than what I understood Arab culture to be. There, I didn’t have to struggle at all (not racist, just ignorant 😛 ).
Oh, and don’t forget the huge tray of dates at the entrance.
Someday in the future, if I actually KNOW someone in the room of men, I wouldn’t be averse to having another go at attending a shindig like this. For the moment though, I think I better get used to French culture first.