Friday, June 4, 2010

Moroccan Wedding

Last night, after nearly nine months in Morocco, I was finally able to experience an extremely cultural event-a wedding.

I was invited by my best friend in town, Imane, to attend the wedding reception of her husband’s cousin. I was honored to be asked and even though I was very excited to go I knew I had to prepare myself for a long night which was ahead of me. True to all the stories the night was surely long.

I had arrived back home from traveling in mid afternoon and got in a nap because I knew I would be pulling an all nighter. I planned on going to Imane’s house at about 7pm after I taught an English class but I didn’t end up getting there until 8:30. Her house was full with family members in town for the wedding and many women primping and dressing. I was given her younger sister’s dress, called a keftan, to wear for the wedding and Imane helped me to put on some Moroccan style makeup. Black eyeliner, foundation that is way to light for your skin tone, and red blush.

We did not depart for the party until 11pm. It was in another part of town so we got a ride from Imane’s husband. Most Moroccan weddings are done in the home meaning there is typically a large tent set up outside as many houses can’t hold that amount of people. There were rugs covering the dirt we walked on and elaborate fabrics were held up by a frame of steel rods. I was wearing borrowed high-heeled shoes that were a size too big, which was difficult enough, but walking dirt made it look as if I had never worn heels in my life.

The tent was full of mostly women in some of the most intricate and detailed dresses I have ever seen. Just being a guest at a wedding means you show off your finest clothes and personal style. I was first ushered to a table which put me in perfect position to witness all the festivities that were to come, the dancing, the singing, and watching the bride.

It was probably one of the worst places for small children to be running around, with all the electrical cords and rugs to trip on, but there was no shortage of little ones having their fun. I was also in perfect position to cringe as the children would get themselves tangled in the videographers’s long power cord and nearly face plant into a steel pole holding up the tent. Much to my surprise the night went by without witnessing an injury. I will call in a miracle.

We sat in this place for about an hour as we all waited for the bride and groom to join us. I’m glad Imane is so understanding of me so she never made me get up and dance if I did not want to and I also didn’t feel bad that I probably didn’t look like I was having much fun. About 70 percent of the women in attendance looked like they were sitting in a dentist’s waiting room. Adorned in gold bracelets and necklaces and colorful varieties of fabric, most of them were just mere observers of the activity going on.

The live music was very loud, continuous, and repetitive. It could have been one song on repeat for all I could tell, but it was just another one of the things that made me feel like I was in a fantasy world. The solid beat of the drums and the electric echoing of the violin inspired lots of hip shaking, arm movements, and unique moves that are always used when music is played. It’s interesting to me how each culture has such a specific way in which they move their bodies to music and the Moroccan style is one I love very much.

Finally the bride and groom came out and I felt like I was getting ready to watch a theatrical production. The brides’ first dress was all white and the groom wore a black suit. They came out surrounded by four dancers wearing gold capes who took the bride right to her silver pedestal, I will call it, were she sat and looked like the princess she seemed to be. The dancers then lifted her up, each holding one of four sides, and walked her around the tent for all to see. Then, much to my amazement, they started dancing with her in the air and I loved every minute of it. They then sat down in their gorgeously adorned love seat where they would be for most of the night.

Now at this point posed picture after posed picture was taken and family members lined up to each have a picture with the newlyweds. Basically their only responsibility was to sit there, wear a smile, and look beautiful.

After some time the couple was escorted back into the house where the bride would change her dress for the first time. I will skip the foreshadowing and just tell you that she wore seven dresses that night, all within about a seven hour period, each one unique and interesting. With each dress change more pictures would be taken and the permanent fake smile would be kept on the couples faces. I don’t mean to say they were not happy, but smiling for seven hours straight can get pretty old.

I knew there was a meal coming I just wasn’t sure when. I had purposefully not eaten much that day because the longer you are in Morocco the more you are able to predict situations. I knew I would be eating both chicken and beef, as well as be served tea and sweets. And I of course knew lots of pop would be involved as I have now deemed it the Moroccan champagne, because it is present at any celebration.

Two a.m. rolled around the women were in position to receive their meal. Yes I said two a.m.. I honestly can’t tell you why any of these traditions are the way they are but honestly I also couldn’t tell you why in American weddings the bride throws her bouquet at the end either. They just are what they are and even though I thought eating dinner at two a.m. was crazy I felt honored to be observing solid traditions of another culture.

There were many strikingly beautiful Moroccan women present and somehow I felt like a little girl watching in awe as they shook their hips to the beat of the drums. I got up to dance once with another friend I ran into at the wedding and she was surprised at how well I was at their style of dance. Taking a few belly dance classes helped but I’m also just good at mimicking what I see around me.

The bride and groom were such a handsome couple and, like a creeper, I really enjoyed staring at them all night long. The groom was a very handsome man but I found more enjoyment with admiring the bride who was such a beautiful woman and wore seven dresses that I probably could never dream up myself. The traditional dresses are in my eyes part of a magical fantasy that was taking place around me. It was fun to see a cultural event where nothing is simple and dressing up like a princess is completely normal.

I left the party at six a.m. with ringing ears, the desire to crash for half a day, and many memories that will be kept for a long time to come.